In preparation for a number of upcoming future projects, I’ve been sharpening my editing knives on older stories of mine. Not only to ready them for a personal anthology release but also to study how much I’ve grown over the course of three years of writing.
What’s interesting is how remarkably different and telling each stories technical errors are. If there are many characters, the shifting point of view is a constant issue. One story had me wondering if I even spoke English, but then I distinctly remembered turning it over to the publishing company before I had a chance to proof it, desperate to make it by the due date. They loved and published it, but as I later noticed, no real editing had been performed against the original manuscript.
The personal anthology is a kind of small redemption for that reason. A quiet shame for allowing tales to be printed before they were fully fleshed out. However, I’m surprisingly comfortable with the actual quality of the plots and stories themselves and the pacing is never less than decent. Although they require polish, there’s a satisfying feeling of “it’s there.”
On the subject of pacing, I’ve been reading Glen Cook’s The Black Company, an on-going series of nine current novels, one spin-off, several short stories and at least two more upcoming books. The epic/dark fantasy franchise is still towards the bottom of at least one “longest fantasy series” ranking. In others, it rarely comes up in several others at all.
I have to give it to Cook, the man is an absolute genius at avoiding the info dump. I’ve never seen someone just stroll along so successfully accepting of otherworldly elements like magic as though they were as common as grass. You have to read his work and get caught up later. But there’s little that’s inaccessible about it as a result.
The sheer amount of details regarding a fictional world can, without care, become a powerful barrier to fan entry. Few worlds are as developed as, say, Warhammer 40,000. And as a result, an incredibly common question by new fans is “where do I start reading?” And it’s not easy to answer, because there’s so much to learn. Their universe is remarkably deep.
“Info dumping” is something that has come to mind as of late. Defined, it simply means the use of exposition to clarify world-building elements. Understanding of it can be a little subjective; one man’s info dump is another man’s tale. The Lord of the Rings is one such series which engaged in the act to great success.
Amusingly, as I talked to my friends about it, absolutely none of us could deny that we’ve blown hours of our lives reading the Lexicanum, and similar wikias that are nothing but info dump depots. It seems strange to me that for the ethos of expos-lanation being bad in the actual material, we tend to waste so much time utterly bathing in it.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t limits. I know plenty of stories where I barely read beyond a few pages because of the sheer density of an opening. But personally, there are occasions after I’m invested in the story that a little explanation can go a long way to turning me into a raving fan of the work. There reaches a point when you just want to know, and being straight told is more of a boon than a liability.