Managing information in your scenes

I recently had an insightful meeting with my publishing team as I work through edits on Blood Capital. One phrase stuck with me, partly because it is so perfectly crude, but also because the resulting conversation has helped improve my process. The sentence was, “Don’t blow your load too early.” The context for this was a single chapter early in the book where I’d strayed from the path in two ways:

  1. I’d allowed too many info-dumps to creep in.
  2. In an effort to paint a complete picture of the world, I’d allowed my POV character to notice things they probably wouldn’t (things we would find shocking, but to him were just part of daily life).

Oops.

Unpacking the above, I could see exactly what they were getting at, so I’m jumping confidently into the rewrite. However, it’s led to an expansion of my scene-writing process I thought I’d share.

Previously when commencing a scene, I’d rough out what I intended to do with it:

  • What was the purpose?
  • What basic events should happen?
  • What state of mind are the characters in?
  • What’s the environment like? Time, temperature, lighting / visuals, sounds, smells, etc.

I’ve now added some additional dot points to these scene plans to help me better control the information I’m supplying to the reader:

  • What information do I want to reveal during this scene? This could be world-building, character information, foreshadowing, whatever.
  • What information should I be trying to withhold during this scene?
  • What foreshadowing should I be working in?
  • What misdirection should I include?

We’ll see how the next version of the chapter turns out, but I feel the new rough-out is already much more helpful than what I’d been doing previously.

Do you do anything different?

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