Saturday, 27 February 2016

7 strategies for avoiding Info Dumping

Happy Saturday to you!

It's my every-second-Saturday post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog but I'm re-blogging most of my post here since it's something that's been plaguing me for quite a while in my current manuscript. 

Information dumps—Aargh!

Balancing the scales is a tricky business. 

Explaining what the reader needs to know in a novel, without major info dumping, is an acquired skill. At least, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. When you’re the author of a series of novels the techniques needed are subtly different for each book—though exactly why it’s marketed as a series is also a key question to address because the links throughout a series may be presented in different ways.

In my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic adventures, the three published books are about the horrendous toll on members of a Celtic warrior clan when the Ancient Roman Army makes war on their territory in northern Roman Britain during AD 71-84. 

Book 1 features Lorcan of the hillfort of Garrigill.


Lorcan's brother Brennus features in Books 2 & 3. His adventures are spread over a number of years as the Roman war machine continues to infiltrate northwards. 

In books 2 & 3, the resistance strategies of my battle-hardened Celts change to information gathering, i.e the life of a spy, till AD 84 when full scale battle happens yet again against the Romans. By AD 84 the location is now the far north of Britannia (North east Scotland).


But as I write Book 4, my main female character is the 14 year old daughter of a third brother, Enya being of the next warrior generation. Most of the Garrigill characters of the first three books reappear in Book 4 and contribute in a more minor role, so their history seems just as relevant as that of my new generation of protagonists. 

A large hold up in my writing of Book 4 is avoiding the tendency towards major info dumping because my publisher also requests that each book should be able to be read by a brand new reader of my work as a stand-alone novel.

I'm FULL of questions as I write…

Ø      How much do information dumps matter in a series where each book is also designed to be a stand-alone story?
Ø      When is too much information being given?
Ø      How does the reader get just the right amount of info for the background to the story to be clear?
Ø      At what point is the author’s urge to give information going to slow down the action of the story to the point of boredom for a new reader?
Ø      Can that perfect place be found where the reader has sufficient information for the progress of the action throughout the novel?
Ø      Is there just enough information to make a reader still ask themselves a question or two but they’re not in the dark about something important?
Ø      Is there sufficient information to avoid the reader from being confused when subsequent action occurs as a result of something that’s happened in a previous novel in the series?
Ø      Many writing sources will tell you that it’s best to spread your information throughout the novel and that seems sound advice.  A strategic smattering of necessary detail at key points in the novel works best for the reader but my question, and quandary is, how is this achieved when writing a series?  
These are 7 strategies that I’m using, but I’m sure there are many others to add to the following:

  • Working the information into dialogue is a technique I favour— when it fits naturally into the story progress. Giving the reader necessary information but also having the characters moving the action forward at the same time is a great aim, though I find that it’s not always achievable without a bit of repetitive tweaking and re-editing to get it just perfect. The information given, I feel, has to really matter to the characters to make it be relevant.
  • I strive to make sure that the information is coming from the correct POV and feel that’s an important part of the task. My series is written in third person so I’m constantly checking to ensure that I’ve not jumped out of my character’s head and that an omniscient POV hasn’t sneaked in.
  • I’ve been constantly re-doing the beginning to make sure my story is starting at the right place—with immediate action rather than pages of info dumped narrative.
  • I’ve axed passages that haven’t moved the action of the story forward to the extent that my ‘dump’ file is almost greater than my manuscript!
  • Character Development is important for my new characters and yet my ‘earlier’ characters are also aging and their emotional reactions should reflect this.
  • I’m highly aware of different aspects of tension in the storyline— my new characters being themselves in new situations of terror, and yet moulded by the past horrific circumstances that the whole family found themselves in.
  • I need to ensure that any info dumping tells its own relevant story and adds depth; the cause and effect being relevant to the immediate situation. 
How many more strategies can you add to help avoid Info Dumping? Please pop any suggestions in the comments box- they'll be much appreciated! 

Useful sites for information are: 


  1. Interesting and helpful post Nancy. I haven't written sequels, but I can see that giving the reader the right amount of past information must be a lot more tricky to cover. For myself, I do try to get the info across by dialogue. For example, a particular incident is discussed that can sum up earlier characters personalities and feelings towards each other.
    I also enlist the help of my reading group, who will tell me if there is too much info - or not enough.

    1. I'm sure your reading group are a great help with this, Susan. That's definitely where some sort of beta reading is valuable.


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