About Me

My photo

I love being a mom and a wife. I've married to a man I would do anything for, and we have three beautiful children. I see so much of myself in both of them that it sometimes brings me to tears (happy ones).

I also love writing. Romance to be specific. I love the happily ever after that I believe everyone deserves. My stories aren't 'stop and smell the roses' type romances. While I believe everyone deserves happiness and true love, I know that sometimes you have to walk a hard road to find it. Those are the types of stories I like to write. The happily ever after that wasn't found, but earned. I work to earn mine on a daily basis and so do my characters. 

I am also working on a children's picture book series. Inspired (of course) by my kiddos. :)

On the non-writing front, I play acoustic guitar, sing, read like I get paid for it, ride horses, hike, paint rocks, and support a rather obsessive addiction to Pinterest.

I love to cook, which combined with my pinning addiction, leads to many experiments foisted on my unsuspecting husband and kids, mostly with good results. But sometimes, the dogs gets what the family refuses to eat. And they never complain. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Avoiding the "Info Dump" - Thursdays with the Author

I finally got a review on my newest book and although it was a positive 4 star review, one comment had me thinking about what NOT to do as I finish writing the series. 

The comment goes like this: "I gave it 4 stars because I thought it started off a little slow. Sometimes it is a little harder to get into when the author is trying to get her story line set up, especially when this is the first of four books. Once I got into the "meat" of the story, I really enjoyed it."

This is one thing I didn't want to do while writing my books. The dreaded 'Info Dump'.

The first few drafts of this particular book were the worst when it came to inundating the reader with information to set up not only the book, but the rest of the series. In subsequent revisions, some information was moved further into the story, some taken out completely. I was aware that the beginning might start slow for some readers but after trying to move more things around, I realized that the story would have been more negatively affected if I had changed anything else. So I bit the proverbial bullet and left the beginning how it was. 

Being the first in a four part saga didn't help matters. The entire series had to be set up, at least partially in the first book. All the characters, not just the ones in that first book, but the following three as well, needed to be introduced to a certain extent. Then there was the main characters of that first book. It was a lot to try and place in one book. 

Even though this particular reader had a slow start to this book, she eventually got to the point where she could enjoy the story instead of storing and processing all the information I was giving. So I don't see it as a failure. More as a opportunity to learn. 

Many books, particularly with series and fantasy/science fiction books, are filled with more information and back story than most novels. A lot of authors fail to see the information overload they are writing and many readers are left bored, or at the very least, feeling like they're slogging through a biography instead of a fiction novel.

At the same time, the writer can make the mistake of not giving enough information. You don't want a reader going 'huh?' or 'where did that come from?' while reading your book. 

There's a fine line between the two and my hope for this blog post is to help you navigate that line and make your story great. 

So how does the writer avoid the dreaded 'Info Dump' and the incredulous 'huh?' Here's a few tips:

1) Start with Action

Even if it's just in the prologue or first chapter. Action, as well as setting up the conflict, is essential to hooking the reader well enough to get them through the information to come. 

2) Introduce the Main Characters Right Away

This is one thing you shouldn't make your readers wait for. If one of the characters doesn't come until later in the novel you should at least introduce the other main character right away. You can also do a prologue, dream sequence, etc. to introduce the other main character before going with the more solo viewpoint for a while. 

3) Back-story Should be Minimal

A lot of books have one or both of the characters with their own back-story before the main story starts. If the hero and heroine meet each other immediately and it's all sunshine and roses, the reader has nothing to read and will not be able to connect with the characters. The back-story is how we relate, connect and become emotionally invested in the characters. In the beginning of a novel however, the initial back-story that should be introduced is only what is crucial to the characters and their story. Other back-story can come later in the story, when it becomes relevant. Flashbacks, a long-lost letter to the character, and telling the back-story through dialog are good ways to get this done. 

4) Make an Outline of What is Absolutely Necessary To Know Right Away

You don't have to say everything at once. Unless you only want your novel to be a few chapters long, there's no hurry to tell the reader everything. If the first chapter gets the reader interested and invested in the story, they will keep reading. 

5) Who? What? When? Where? Why?

You don't want to give the reader the answers to these question right away. You want them to be asking those questions. The beginning of a book gets the reader curious to find out the answers and that is exactly how you want to write. 

6) Show, Don't Tell

You've heard this before as a general writing tip but it can also be used when explaining worlds and history. Particularly for fantasy and science fiction. 
Don't tell the reader what the world looks like or about the creatures/plants/people in it. Show it. 
Have a character(s) reacting to it, talking about it, experiencing it. 
At the same time, you don't want your characters 'telling' each other things that should have been obvious to them in the first place. The reader will not only see your veiled attempt to hide an info dump, but may quit reading altogether. Ways to avoid that particular trap is by introducing a new character that wouldn't know the information. A story with the info told to a group of children, inviting a new-comer, explaining how it works to a foreigner, writing/finding a letter, etc. are all good ways of adding back-story and information.

7) Tell the 'What' But Save the 'Why'. 

Make sure the reader knows what the character is doing while they're reading. But in some cases, especially when there's a lengthy explanation, save the why for later in the story. Another character can ask why and it can be explained through the character at any time. 

8) If It Affects the Character's Decisions, Write It. 

What is the character's opinion about what is going on? Does the character have to react to the information being presented? Does the setting help or hinder the character's actions? Is the knowledge (or lack thereof) contributing to the character succeeding or failing? These are all questions you need to ask before adding (or not adding) the information to your book. 

9) Never Start a Book With the Words 'As You Know' or 'In The Beginning'. 

Seriously. The Bible is pretty much the only book that can pull this off. 

So there's some tips on how to get your novel started on the right track! Good luck and happy writing!