Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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How To Eliminate Info Dumps In Deep Point Of View

by Lisa Hall-Wilson

Hobbit House

No one likes reading an info dump, but we writers justify their existence because we’re sure the reader needs all this background information here, right now. Info dumps kill the pace and tension in your story and readers may just put down your book and walk away forever.

What Is An Info Dump?

“An info dump is a very large amount of information, usually backstory, supplied all at once in a narrative.” Backstory is important and vital to any character and story, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of what you know or have created. As any good introvert knows, people have to earn the trust to be told your entire life story, you don’t just verbally vomit on a stranger. It’s rude. *smile*

Concerning Hobbits…

In an omniscient point of view, the worldbuilding Tolkien used in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit is acceptable. Omniscient point of view though is largely out of favor with modern readers and acquisition editors.

It’s hard to ground the reader in time and place without front-loading a work with all the ways that world is different from our own world/reality/time/place. Whether you’re writing Steampunk, Space Opera, Edwardian romance, spec fic, etc etc — the key is to avoid large deposits of information. Let the world unfold for the reader as the character sees it. If everyone in your story world is green with large antennae, construct an organic scenario that would cause your character to notice it — because we don’t often think/comment on things that seem every day or ordinary.

An Info Dump:

Cassandra kept her claws rounded and painted which showed her pride in her appearance. The green-skinned passersby didn’t give her any notice. They kept their long antennae gleaming and straight. Her people were fastidious and prided themselves on their appearances. Not being noticed was a good thing.

Organic Worldbuilding:

Cassandra examined the filed ends of her claws. Last night’s fresh polish still glistened in the sun. Her antennae twitched, energy zinging to the ends of her fingers. She spun around, hands covering her gills. 

Steve backed up half a step, palms up. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” His left antennae was bent and limp. Sickly splotches of purple marred his green skin. 

A young couple swerved off the sidewalk, giving Steve a hard glare and covering their gills as they passed by. He tucked his broken claws into his palms as if trying to hide them. 

Rank body odour hit her, a mix of sour seaweed and spoiled tuna. Cass shifted to the right so the slight breeze was at her back, carrying Steve’s germs and his body odour away from her. “Where’ve you been? You don’t look so good.”

Backstory And Deep Point Of View

If you’re writing your entire novel in deep point of view (as opposed to just using this technique for emphasis in key scenes), you can avoid backstory and worldview info dumps whether through narrative, internal dialogue or spoken dialogue by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the character worried about/interested in/working towards RIGHT NOW?
  • What information does the reader NEED to know RIGHT NOW in order for the story to make sense? How can I answer their most pressing question but leave them asking even more questions?
  • Which bits of backstory are so compelling that readers will be cheering for my character?
  • Why do I think the reader needs this information now? Is it just to prove I’ve thought of it? (You, as the writer, need to keep yourself out of the story.)

Remember, in deep point of view, we restrict the reader to only what the point of view character (POVC) knows, sees, hears, feels, touches, etc. But it’s also a very intimate and immediate style of writing, so something triggers them in the here and now — a smell, a sound.

Answer The Why

With any bit of backstory or worldbuilding info you include, ask yourself why you’re putting that there, in that scene, right now. Is there an organic reason for the character to think of it? Otherwise it turns into what I call I-have-a-puppy syndrome. I’ve been a teacher in a variety of formal capacities, and it never fails that in a group of young children someone feels left out and interrupts the conversation by bouncing up and down, their hand shooting up in the air, to say, “I have a puppy!”

That’s what it feels like to the reader to be jerked out of the character’s head and sent on a bunny trail that neither feels organic to the moment or the character.

So, ask why you want to include that information in that place of the story. Ask why your readers need that information. Often, the reader needs only a fraction of what we think they need, but be sure and offer context for the character and the setting. Giving the reader too little information is as bad as too much.

Finally, ask whether the character really would think or talk about that bit of backstory or worldbuilding. Because we rarely explain things to ourselves that we already know.

There’s Bob with Cindy, his third girlfriend this year.

There’s Bob. Is it Cindy? No, that was the second one. Mindy? I don’t remember.

Do you struggle to identify info dumps in your work? What’s your Achilles heel? What kind of info dumps are you most prone to committing without realizing it?

About Lisa

Lisa Hall-Wilson is a writing teacher and award-winning writer and author. She’s the author of Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers. Her blog, Beyond Basics For Writers, explores all facets of the popular writing style deep point of view and offers practical tips for writers. 

She runs the free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions where she shares tips and videos on writing in deep point of view. 

Image Credits:

Top image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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Warning: Author’s Risks May Lead to Fresh Adventures

by Kris Maze

When writers take risks, it's a chance to infuse fresh energy into their craft. Whether it's experimenting with new writing methods or exploring innovative ways to connect with readers, embracing change can invigorate your work.

Nearly a decade ago, I made a deliberate choice to pursue my dream of becoming a published author by taking risks. I sought wisdom from experienced writers, publishers, agents, and editors through articles, conferences, and classes. This in itself was a risk, considering I was already pushing my limits of time and energy as a full-time teacher with a family.

Trying something new can be challenging, but it's never dull. In this blog post, I'll share the adventures and lessons I gained from these risks as a writer.

My Author Adventure

I followed blogs and watched YouTube videos on writing, craft, and marketing. I invested in small courses that honed the finer nuances of crafting compelling stories.

I joined local writing groups and made weekly visits to libraries for in-depth discussions about novels. I immersed myself in the writer's community.

I pushed through the arduous process of completing the first draft of a YA thriller novel and diligently sought beta readers. Their feedback was invaluable, prompting me to embark on a comprehensive rewrite. One which still sits on a dusty closet shelf.

I hustled to find an agent, sending out queries to publishers while scouring the internet for any opportunities that aligned with my manuscript, tracked under #MSWL. In the end, what I collected was a folder full of rejection emails.

I scoured contest listings and submitted to every competition that vaguely seemed to match the essence of my story. Looking back, I realize the importance of thoroughly researching the compatibility between my work and the publishing entity with more precision. And for those contest judges and organizers of those days, I apologize for my light indiscretions and literary version of spam. Sorry about that!

I went to conferences. Conferences that required getting onto a plane and traveling to some exotic locale called LA in California, far from my small community. There, I had the privilege of meeting fellow writer-people. Some of us banded together to form a writing accountability group that continues to this day, hosting weekly calls that offer support and insights into the ever-evolving world of publishing.

My Publishing Adventure

I found a small publisher who discovered my story through one of the many contests I entered and offered me a publishing contract. My book hit the market in the summer of 2020, but unfortunately, my well-laid plans for in-person promotions fell flat.

I didn't let setbacks deter me. Instead, I reclaimed the rights to my work and reimagined my story within a niche I intimately understood, thanks to my decades of work in education.

I made the decision to invest in editing, formatting, and proofreading services, to polish my manuscripts.

I sought guidance from exceptional writing teachers and coaches, tirelessly honing my skills and expanding my knowledge.

I undertook a website overhaul, introducing user-friendly store interfaces and a sleek, modern look. In the digital age, I understood the need to stay current.

Throughout this journey, I leaned on my trusty accountability groups, celebrating our collective successes and offering a supportive ear when we faced challenges. Together, we strengthened our resolve and pressed further into our writing goals.

My Speaking Adventure

During this past summer, a realization struck me - a connection existed between my journey as an author and the unfulfilled aspirations of other creative educators like me. I researched within my professional niche, identifying opportunities for conference presentations.

I submitted applications to speak, creating sessions designed to cater to the needs I once had as an attendee. I focused on four regional organizations and presented my proposals, hoping for the best, but not really expecting a response. This wasn't my first time submitting proposals, but it's the first time I've felt confident in the message I have to share. Despite several personal constraints, such as tight schedules and life pressures, I seized the opportunity and took the risk.

As summer transitioned to fall and I resumed my responsibilities in education, acceptance emails began to arrive. One came in mid-September, followed by two more in the subsequent week. At the time of this post's publication, I am arranging logistics for three out of the four proposals, including all the minutia of making accommodations and ensuring microphone accessibility at various venues along the U.S. West Coast.

WITS Tips for Speaking Engagements

During these developments, I've taken calculated risks and found immense satisfaction in imparting the knowledge I've accumulated during this journey to my fellow Teacher-Authors, but I'd like to clarify that my intent here isn't to provide a blueprint for delivering exceptional presentations or securing speaking engagements. Instead, my aim is to share my experience of growth, hoping it may inspire and encourage fellow writers to take risks in their author journeys.

Writers in The Storm Blog has many resources on public speaking. Here are a few posts full of valuable advice.

Writers Helping Writers: Presenting to Writing Groups

How to Talk Publicly About Writing

How to Engage Kids: The ABC’s of Author Talks at Schools

Public Speaking in a Foreign Land

Nine Keys to Being Media Ready

Going Mobile? You Need a Mobile Media Kit

Being a Cool Cat While Making Presentations

Final Thoughts on Taking Risks

Risks can be an author’s friend and an impetus for growth. I’ve been a fan of taking calculated risks for some time, and besides helping my author presence grow, I have learned far more than if I had only made safe decisions that kept me comfortable.

I'm also keenly aware that I took another risk in this post as my grammar and spell-checking software screamed that I've begun nearly every paragraph with the word ‘I’, a faux pas in writing for so many reasons.

But as writers, we know when to override the rules and make our own path. Sometimes it is the difference between being stuck or finishing your novel. Dreading a social media event or having fun promoting your work. If your author’s dreams are stalling or losing luster, consider making some changes. How are you going to break your writing-career-mold and take a risk today?

I hope you are enjoying a writing-win in your words. Please share a success story you’ve had recently with our readers and encourage each other on your author journeys.

About Kris

Kris Maze

Kris Maze is an author, writing coach, and teacher. She has worked in education for many years and writes for various publications, including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and the award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her horror stories and young adult writing on her website. Keep up with future projects and events by subscribing to her newsletter. And other writing work HERE.

A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors.

And occasionally, she makes homemade mac-n-cheese as comfort food for others.

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Book Reviews: 4 Steps to Validate Your Work

by Hannah Jacobson

Book Reviews - 4 Steps to Validate your Work

Validate your work through the power of book reviews

It's every author's dream: not only to publish your book, but also to see it read, recognized, and appreciated by adoring fans.

Book reviews play a crucial role in achieving this literary dream.

Why book reviews? They're a source of validation for many authors, an important litmus test of readers' reactions to your work. Reviews also represent a source of credibility from book buyers or literary professionals reviewing your work. Perhaps best of all, reviews are also a powerful way to establish a trusted connection with your readers.

Let's explore why reviews matter to authors and learn the art of validating your book through reviews.

Why book reviews matter

Why are book reviews so important for authors, book publishing professionals, and happy book buyers? There are a few reasons:

Credibility: Positive reviews from readers and critics lend credibility to your work. They signal to potential readers that your book is worth their time and investment.

Social proof: People often make decisions based on the actions (and reactions) of others. Positive book reviews serve as social proof, encouraging more readers to pick up your book.

Visibility: Books with a significant number of reviews tend to rank higher in online marketplaces like Amazon. More reviews mean more visibility, which can lead to increased sales.

Constructive feedback: Reviews provide valuable insight into what readers liked and disliked about your book. This feedback can help you improve as a writer and refine your future work.

Overall, book reviews provide you an opportunity to build momentum for your marketing efforts.

Validate your book through reviews

You wrote the book...congratulations! Now it's time to use book reviews to get validation for your story. Here are the first steps to take:

1. Optimize your timing (if it's an option).

When it comes to requesting reviews, timing is crucial. The sooner you can get started, the more runway you allow for your book marketing efforts to take off.

Provide advance review copies (ARCs) of your book to a select group of readers before its official release. This allows them to read and review your book in advance.

After your book is released (during your "post-launch" phase), periodically remind readers to leave reviews. Some readers may need time to finish the book, so gentle reminders can be highly effective.

If you are pursuing professional reviews, be sure to read all the rules and restrictions to ensure your book meets all of their initial qualifications and preferences.

2. Make your life easier with online platforms.

Online platforms are a goldmine for book reviews. Here's how to make the most of them:

Amazon and Goodreads: These platforms are two of the most popular places for readers to leave reviews, so it's important your profiles are easy to find. Ensure your book is listed and optimized on Amazon and Goodreads.

Professional book bloggers and reviewers: Connect with book bloggers and reviewers who specialize in your genre. Approach them professionally and offer a copy of your book for review, adhering to their unique review policies. Pro tip: Book Award Pro makes it a breeze to decipher which reviews are a good fit for your book, even on the Free plan.

Social media: Utilize your social media presence to request reviews and engage with readers. Share snippets of positive reviews to encourage your audience to share their thoughts, too.

3. Encourage honest and organic reviews from your readers.

As an author, you have garnered a special kind of respect from your readers. Engage with your audience, and they'll often be delighted to engage back with you (i.e. leave reviews!).

Build a connection with new readers through social media, your author website, and newsletters. Don't be afraid to leverage your network, too. Reach out to friends, family, and acquaintances who have read your book and ask them to leave reviews. Personal connections can often provide initial validation.

In the author's note at the end of your book, you can also politely request a review from your readers if they enjoyed your work. Be sure to express your gratitude for their time and support.

Remember, when you regularly engage your audience in an authentic way, they are more likely to provide feedback.

4. Make the most of positive reviews.

When you receive positive reviews, don't let them go to waste. Use them strategically to get more eyes on your book, and infuse your own personal style to engage effectively with your reads.

Pull standout quotes from positive reviews and share them on your book's cover, in marketing materials, and on social media.

You can also publicly thank readers who leave glowing reviews. This graceful acknowledgement fosters a sense of community and encourages more readers to share their thoughts.

Final thoughts

Book reviews are a powerful tool for authors, offering validation, credibility, and social proof. When you actively seek and value reviews as an important part of your author journey, you'll unlock new levels of reader engagement and book sales.

Remember to find the best review options for your book, nurture a delighted audience, and provide your readers a thoughtful and engaged experience. Your hard work will serve your writing career for many years to come.

How have reviews impacted your writing career?

About Hannah Jacobson

Hannah Jacobson

Hannah Jacobson is the founder of Book Award Pro: the technology company that leads the industry in helping authors find the perfect reviews and awards for their books.

Sought by industry experts to craft their award-winning strategies, Hannah helped develop the AI technology that has become Book Award Pro. Every year, authors spanning 6 continents win thousands of new awards, receive valuable reviews, and effectively market their books in one easy-to-use platform.

Hannah is the Awards & Story Marketing Advisor for the Alliance of Independent Authors. She brings the experience and expertise of Book Award Pro to inform the ALLi awards resource, as well as to make industry changes on behalf of independent authors.

Her expertise has been recognized as the leading voice in book awards and author advocacy.

Begin your award-winning journey for free or connect with Hannah and Book Award Pro on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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