On Novel Writing

Today I reached 38 percent on my novel, my fourth rewrite and the first rewrite after it was critiqued by my writers group. Among other things, I am trying to remove fluff. The 20 percent solution may apply. I’ve discovered that motion is important in writing, that things must be progressing in every scene. The quickest way to lose a reader’s interest is to have long passages where the character is thinking about things, or wandering without destination (I had a lot of that in earlier drafts of the novel). So I am going, cut-cut-cut, and I am also re-working the sentence level structure to reflect this forward motion. No more long sentences which ruminate on the strange vistas of this alien world. I’ve found that being vague can often help in world-building as it allows the reader to create the world in her mind. There’s no way you can fill in every detail anyway.

Which leads me to my dilemma. I have a scene where the protagonist enters a library of sorts and discovers information which is damning to a group which controls the planet. Up till now, all things in the novel have moved forward steadily. Yet this scene has my protagonist reading data from a screen; hardly riveting. I’m afraid the reader will get bored. Perhaps this is because I have to pause in the forward motion and look back.

Am I being too info-dumpish? Am I over-complexifying the novel in an attempt to add depth? I suppose the answer to that question is, is this subject sufficiently interesting that the reader will stay enthralled? Will she comprehend the relevance of the information? Have I set up the plot well enough that the reader will want to know what the protagonist discovers? Mercurio Rivera is reading the novel rewrite as I progress, and I suppose I will find out how I fared soon enough. But, I’m curious, what techniques do you use when you reach a point in your novel/story where elements of history must be told, where you must pause the forward motion of the plot and describe something that happened in the past? How do you keep the reader, well, reading?

2 Replies to “On Novel Writing”

  1. Personally? I create a conflict within the scene– a screen reader with a short, a pesky librarian, a time limit–something that will continue to shed light on my character as she struggles to do whatever the dull thing is. In a beautiful world, the conflict is also related to the larger plot or an existing subplot, but doesn’t have to be.

  2. There is conflict already in the scene. The information he is reading is not meant to be seen and is shown to him by an historian who works in the library. Also, the information reveals certain qualities of the ruling race of the planet which will, I hope, serve to increase the tension of the situation.

    I’m not a big fan of adding conflict just for conflict’s sake, but I do believe it’s important to create interest in every scene.

    My fear partly stems from a pervasive admonition in various writers’ circles that “infodumping” is a bad thing, but in this case the plot requires it.

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