Info Dump City

13 Aug

This is what I do when I change one scene and it throws EVERYTHING off.

Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING.  But enough little things to matter.

(Click image to enlarge—apologies for the tiny font.)

This week, for example, I made a chart that looked pretty similar to this one.  All because the scene in question (Scene 1) was Info Dump City.  To fix its Info-Dumpness, I (brace yourselves for this, here) took out some of the info.  Some, I eliminated altogether.  Some, I transformed into tip-of-the-iceberg, tantalizing info that will make the reader go huh? instead of duh. (Hopefully.)  Some, I postponed.

What to do with all the info that a) needs to be followed up on, and b) needs to get in there at some other time?

That’s where the hard part comes in.  Actions and reactions, emotions, motivation—they’re all pretty much tied to each other.  So, when I change Info Dump City scenes, the next scenes tend to need tweaking, too.  S can’t freak out about something H said if H didn’t say it, right?  And he can’t make plans based on suspicions he doesn’t yet have.

So, this is what I do when I need to figure out a chunk of scenes.  Read and re-evaluate the whole chunk in question, decide what can be done to make it smooth.  Decide what needs to be added, cut, tweaked, or left as they are.  Not many get to remain as they are.

Not every chunk of scenes takes this much work (fortunately).  But, some do.  It’s nice to have a system in place for the times when I get to Info Dump City.  Systems are far preferable to freaking out.

This isn’t necessarily a do what I do post, it’s mainly just a this is what I do, and can you relate to it? post.  I’m curious about how you guys deal with figuring out problems in your work.  Do you go to the gym, think things over while you run?  In the shower, perhaps?  Do you have to think on paper/computer, with lists and notes?  Do you go in without a plan?  Are you a genius and you never have problems to fix, ever?

PS:  I made this in Excel with the Draw toolbar (specifically, the rectangle, arrow, symbols, and text box functions on the toolbar).  Everything you see here is pretty simple to make—the benefits of it are greater than the time spent making it.  You can easily click-and-drag the arrows and blocks, like you would do with physical index cards if you were rearranging them on a table.

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16 Responses to “Info Dump City”

  1. Linda Cassidy Lewis Friday / 13 August 10 at 11:16 am #

    Well, I’m just a genius, so I’ve never had this problem. :D

    Actually, I’ve had this problem many times(some due to your critique)and I think my scene list is the only thing that saved me. By consulting it, I could see what the changes threw off. Sometimes the resulting fixes were easy, sometimes I had to mull them over for a while.

    I love that you explained how you made your little chart, because I’m totally ignorant in Excel. Thank you.

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:47 am #

      We need to be even better friends, then. I have much use for a genius in my life! ;)

      That was kind of a bare-bones explanation I gave up there about my chart, for the sake of a) not boring anyone and b) not taking up more space, but if you are interested and need more details about it, I’d be happy to tell you more.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel Friday / 13 August 10 at 3:09 pm #

    Sounds like a good idea to me. I changed scenes around once or twice and just sort of labored intensively until I finally made all the little tweaks. An organized approach makes sense. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:48 am #

      You’re welcome! :) Ah, intensive labor. You can’t really escape that, no matter how many pretty charts you make.

  3. J.C Friday / 13 August 10 at 3:52 pm #

    A walk on the beach always used to do it for me, something about salt air, wind and water that clears my head and resolves issues.
    I actually really enjoy untangling the messes made by this kind of revision – sorting out what needs to be done where and how to slide in the information without doing the dump. Fun stuff! Love your chart, very pretty :-)

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:51 am #

      Cassie, I WISH I had a beach to walk on! Salt air, wind, and water sound amazing for this type of thinking. I think I remember a picture you posted once of the beach you’re talking about, and I wished for it then, too. ;)

      Yeeah, I’m a fixer, too – messes are, admittedly, pretty fun to entangle. Hard, sometimes, and frustrating, but at the end of the day…fun. I’ve always loved logic problems and puzzles, so I guess it makes sense that I’d like this, too.

  4. Chibi Friday / 13 August 10 at 4:30 pm #

    This process sounds familiar! I’ve been doing some of that with my current rewrite, though I didn’t make a lovely chart like you did. All I did was attack my first draft using the comment feature of the Review panel in Micrsoft Word. I basically went through, organizing and shifting as I read. I do a fair amount of outlining, which cuts down on the reorganization editing I have to do.

    When I get stuck, I usually just go and do something else. It doesn’t matter what – a shower, some food, television, escaping the house. At some point, in the back of my mind, a solution arises.

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:55 am #

      I LOVE the comment feature! However, some of my problems were structural and required more than mere shifting. I get overwhelmed by looking at the small picture – words, words, words. The little blocks I created (and my index cards) are kind of like, well, an index. It gives me a bigger overview of how things fit together from a bird’s-eye-view.

  5. Merrilee Friday / 13 August 10 at 4:50 pm #

    Brilliant Kayla. Great to see your ruthless process!

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:55 am #

      Thanks, Merrilee! It’s so much fun being ruthless! ;)

  6. Megs - Scattered Bits Friday / 13 August 10 at 7:52 pm #

    I have a few ricochet problems like that in “In This Wood,” the major slower downer of the whole revision process. The main things wrong with it are so interwoven and serious, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to deal with them.

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 9:56 am #

      Oh, man, do I know how that is. Be patient with it, and I’m sure you’ll figure it out, but dude. It can be intimidating. :) You can do this, Megs!

  7. Agatha82 Saturday / 14 August 10 at 6:28 am #

    That is so organised and tidy. A great idea and god, I haven’t done anything like it, so thanks for the example.
    I have somehow kept all things in my head (oh god, no wonder I’ve got a headache) lol

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks, Agatha! (Question: do you prefer we call you Agatha or your real name?) Like I told Linda, I’d be happy to go into more detail about the chart if you need or want it. I love that sort of thing.

      I cannot imagine doing all of this in my head. Wow, girl! In addition to the chart, I have a thick stack of index cards that keeps me on track. That was a development for this, the third, draft and I so wish I’d figured it out before. It’s helped with pacing, structure, and generally keeping everything going in the right direction.

      Hope all is well, happy writing! :)

  8. Melissa Sunday / 15 August 10 at 3:30 pm #

    Your chart was adorable. I can totally see you SAYING it all out loud. Which just makes me miss you :(

    & now I’m terrified about edits. Oi.

    • Kayla Olson Thursday / 19 August 10 at 10:02 am #

      Hehehehe. I love that you can see me saying it all out loud, because that chart is pretty much how I talk (out loud and in my head). I also love that you can see me saying it all out loud because that means we’ve hung out face-to-face and ohhhhh man I MISS YOU TOO.

      Just so you know.

      (My cousin just had her baby, so maybe a visit to Houston is in order again sometime soon! In which case, you’ll be the first to know, and then I’ll call my cousin.)

      Eh, don’t be terrified. It’s fun. Really. And rewarding, too. :)

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