Do you think about the balance of elements when you're writing?

by Jes

Hi, you've helped so much with the structure of my novel, but this question is about the finer details. As you're writing, do you consciously think about balancing narrative, introspection, description, dialogue. etc? Or is it something that comes naturally? I know that I have to consciously think about it, but is this normal when writers are just starting out?

Also, what things do you consider when you're balancing these and other elements?

Hope that makes sense, and thanks for all the information you have available on this site!!!

Answer: There are only so many considerations or ideas you can hold in your head at any moment. Trying to hold more becomes paralyzing.

If you are a plotter, and you are working from a fairly detailed outline, it can help to review your goals for a scene or event before you start writing it. For instance, you may want the scene to show a character making a decision or taking some action. You may also want to show progress in a relationship, explore a theme, reveal some information, etc.

If you're more of a pantser, you may just know what the next big event will be, several chapters down the road.

Once you start the actual writing, however, you should just focus on the feeling. Follow your emotions and your instincts regarding how the story should unfold. Feelings are holistic. They give you a complete image or sense of a scene as one thing. You can hold a feeling in your head much easier than a long list of considerations or story points.

Don't worry too much about storytelling techniques in a first draft. If your instincts are good, you will
know when you should change to a new mode of storytelling (description, dialogue, exposition, action, etc.). Your feelings should tell you if you are building towards an emotional event or just belabouring a point.

However, your instincts will seldom be perfect for long stretches, even if you are seasoned writer. That's why you do revision.

When revising, you already have a story, so you can focus on the elements you couldn't focus on when writing the first draft because your story was not yet formed.

For instance, you may do one round of revision just to clean up the story. Fill in any plot holes. Cut scenes that aren't necessary. Fix any continuity problems. You can do this easily because you now know the story from beginning to end.

In the next round, you can look at each chapter closely to determine if your pacing is correct or if you need to vary the storytelling more or less.

For example, in a first draft, you may let your character's inner monologue run on a bit because you are exploring -- figuring out what her feelings and attitudes are. In revision, you may discover you can cut huge chunks of the monologue and still illustrate the same state of mind. The result will be a tighter pace.

Same thing with dialogue. Cut the bits that you now see are no longer necessary.

At the same time, you may find it helpful to insert information or details that will be important later (now that you know what happens later) or create foreshadowing.

Again, it's all about not overburdening yourself by trying to address all aspects of the story at once. One stage at a time.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero