Novel Writing: Planting, Foreshadowing or Withholding Info

Those who’ve never written a novel often do not understand the actual process. Novels are often drafted without some crucial elements, which the writer then goes back and inserts.
Writing Tip for Today: Planting, foreshadowing or withholding information can have a profound effect on a story. Here are some tips for using these techniques:

  • Manage Your Reader. The reader’s experience is guided by what info you give or withhold. If you don’t gradually foreshadow or plant an idea, it will seem to jump out of nowhere and thus be less believable. Build these concepts by giving the reader glimpses of that idea before it bursts onto a scene.
  • When Genius Strikes, Make Notes! I’m one of those novelists who often gets great ideas for layering a character’s arc when I’m well-into the draft. Instead of stopping everything to go back and insert the idea (aka a “PLANT”), I’ll start writing as if the idea was in place and make a plot note to go back and flesh out the idea later. Helps keep you from always tinkering with your story until that all-important draft is done.
  • Think Globally. Only after a draft is complete will you as a writer see where subplots need to be strengthened or muted, where foreshadowing feels light or heavy and where you need to retain an element of surprise by withholding crucial info. By waiting until your draft is complete to go back and season your draft, you’ll be able to sense more accurately where these plants, foreshadows and withholds need to be.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Novel Writing: Planting, Foreshadowing or Withholding Info

    • Leauxra, Foreshadowing is tricky I agree! My method is to go ahead and use the sledgehammer and then later pull it back. A good writer’s group helps! Thanks for your comment. ~Linda

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