Monday’s Writerly Quote

I hope your weekend treated you well. I spent mine toiling away on SHADE, trying to get it ready for Pitch Wars. I think I’m down to the last 3 or 4 chapters. Joy! However, my pitch is…well…could be improved. Thankfully I’ve got the time to polish it up to sparkling. And it doesn’t hurt that I have a fabulous mentor’s advice to help me. (You rock Marieke!)

And now a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.

Beware the dreaded info dump. Examine your story, find those places where you are telling your readers everything they need to know. Show them. Remember, if a scene’s or chapter’s only purpose is exposition, then chop it and weave that information into the story in other places. Never write what your characters aren’t currently thinking about.
What ways do you keep the iceberg of knowledge of your story safely tucked below water? How do you avoid info dumping? What techniques would you recommend to other writers? Let me know in the comments below.
And Happy Monday!

11 thoughts on “Monday’s Writerly Quote

  1. Something that I’ve learned in a creative writing class on describing things…when describing things in a room for example, only describe the things the character(s) is going to use, or key parts of that room. If you say there is a gun over the mantle place..that character should use that gun later on in the story.
    I always introduce my characters little here and there throughout my books, it helps build the story.
    Love this blog post!!

    • Oooh, great rule. It made me think of a story I’d read where so many things were described that had no bearing on the story in that room. As a reader you’re wondering, okay, what will that have to do with the story later. I’m not saying you can’t describe anything they don’t touch, sometimes it’s nice to get a sense of the room, but I think it’s best to err on the side of your rules. Thanks for sharing!

      • I prefer streamlined writing that follows the above “rule,” but it seems that “atmosphere” books can be very popular. Those are the ones were the scenery is a bigger deal than the plot (and really should be paintings, not books). Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus” is an example.

        • I have a friend who’s got great descriptions. I could learn a lot from her on setting the scene, however, often it seems nothing happens in the scene after it’s set. I like what you said about them being paintings, not books. Who cares if you know exactly what color of blue the sky was that day if nothing happens.

          I haven’t heard of “The Night Circus” but I may have to check it out, just to see what you mean, even if it’s a quick skim.

  2. I learned as a journalist very quickly that I couldn’t “dump” everything I knew about a topic in an article. I might have pages of notes, quotes, and research, but that’s just for me, not the reader. All the knowledge I gained only made it easier to inform the reader in the fewest words possible. Applying to a novel requires the same technique, although I find I dump sometimes, and this is why self-editing and professional editing is so crucial.

  3. Ha, ha, I was trying to explain this to my sister yesterday. How you do so much work character and world and species building (because she had asked what I had left to do on my checklist before I can begin writing Draft #2) and how much time, research, imagination, and energy it takes.
    And then how the readers only get about 10% a book, and that’s dispersed evenly throughout.
    Her eyeballs got all big. 😉 She continues to agree that that people who think writing is easy are quite misinformed.

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