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.

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