Details, Details

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Since I didn’t write a proper writing post done on Monday, I’ve decided to write one today. I’ve also posted my latest confession over at The Parking Lot Confessional.

Details, Details

While at the Phoenix Comicon this weekend, I learned a really good piece of writing advice.

You know how you get an idea for a story and you start researching and you keep researching and you do all this research and you totally geek out on the research? And then you start writing, and you’re compelled to include every shred of detail you learned while researching? You could fill pages and pages with the minutia of clock making in Victorian England. Or the migratory patterns of African swallows. Or infantry movements during World War I.

But bogging down your book with all of that detail would be B-A-D bad. Not to mention B-O-R-I-N-G boring.

Because, while research lends credibility and veracity to our work, too much detail slows down your narrative and causes the reader to get impatient with the story.

Leanna Renee Hieber, Sam Sykes and Aprilynne Pike all agreed a good strategy for wanting to use all of that research is to go ahead and write a first chapter full of all of the details you love. Knock yourself out. Indulge. Get it all on the page.

Then start the story with your second chapter.

(Aprilynne says she writes two chapters for herself before starting the book with the third chapter.)

When you revise, cut the first chapter (or first two chapters), knowing that nothing you cut has to ever really be thrown away. Save all that research and detail and description for use at a later time or in another book or to frame on the wall because you love it so much.

As someone who often struggles with first chapters, that was a real lightbulb moment for me. I hope you found it helpful as well.

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5 thoughts on “Details, Details

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by S. C. Green, Amy K. Nichols. Amy K. Nichols said: New blog post: Details, Details http://wp.me/pBmxU-in (Or: I've done all this research, now what?) #amwriting […]

    Lua said:
    June 2, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Great advice Amy!
    “You know how you get an idea for a story and you start researching and you keep researching and you do all this research and you totally geek out on the research? And then you start writing, and you’re compelled to include every shred of detail you learned while researching?”

    Haha I know exactly what you mean- I do this all the time! 🙂 Spend half my time researching and suffocating my story with details than the other half with a red pen in my hand trying to cut off some of them…
    Starting the story form the second chapter once you get all the details down sounds like a very good idea…

    Lisa Nowak said:
    June 3, 2010 at 8:45 am

    This used to be a real problem for me, but not anymore now that I’ve realized the reader doesn’t need to know every single step of everything the characters are doing. I keep a list of things I need the reader to know, then as I disclose them in the story I cross them off. I aim for the low side of information regarding back story, and I try to carefully choose my details in a scene. Since I prefer to write dialog and interaction between characters, this isn’t too tough for me. I find it easier to add more specifics later rather than try to cut stuff out. I find that a few unique, well-placed details are better than paragraph after paragraph of description. As a reader I tend to skim over the descriptive passages, so I figure others do, too.

    India Drummond said:
    June 4, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I hear this is a problem for many who write historicals. Since my genre is paraormal, it doesn’t require a lot of esoteric facts, but I do a lot of research on my setting cities!

    I tend to chop off the first few paragraphs (or sometimes pages) of my first chapter, to start the book at a more action-packed spot.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      June 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      I love researching cities, and can get bogged down in this street and that monument and this building and that river, etc. 🙂

      Sounds like this technique works for you, too. That’s great! Thank you for reading and posting, India! (Love your name, btw.)

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