Tuesday, July 10, 2007

VW#1: Practical Pacing

I. What is Pacing?

Pacing is what determines how a story moves along. As with cadence in poetry, and tempo in music, pacing directly affects the impact of the story as well as the reader's response to it.

Pacing can be fast. Very fast. Staccato. Immediate. Sweat on your brow. Lump in your throat. Words turn to grips or slaps or shrieks. We're not waltzing here. Oh no. This is all about now. Here and now. Right now. You with me?

Pacing can also be a lingering, luxurious stretch of story that rolls across the page in unhurried, elegant waves. When the words go all slow, hot summer indolent and cautious feline curious, they seem to envelope the reader in silk and seduction. The story wraps gentle arms around you and carries you along through the passages of prose as though you were light as a feather.

Pacing a story is not about composing nonstop in your face speed text or rocking and drifting along the story river. A story's pacing has to shift, like moods, as the plot unravels and the conflicts rise and fall.

Another way to think of pacing is as the story's heartbeat. It may slow down or speed up, depending on what's happening, but there is always a regular rhythm to it.

II. What Factors Determine a Story's Pacing?

Story elements contribute a lot to pacing. We know as readers that action and dialogue generally tend to speed up the pace of a story, while narrative and description usually slow it down. Chapter beginnings and endings can segue fast or slow, or knock us out of the story altogether. Things like footnotes, fancy font shifts or illustrations sometimes bring the pacing to a screeching halt.

Story theme and genre also affect pacing. A typical fast-paced read would be a crime fiction thriller, as they contain a lot of action. On the flip-side, I have yet to read a fast-paced literary novel.

The word choices a writer makes also influence the pace. If you look again at my two examples up there, you'll notice that the words in the fast-paced paragraph are short, simple and provocative. By comparison, the slow-paced paragraph contains words that are longer, more complex and less aggressive.

Pacing also depends on the tone and ambiance of the writer's storytelling voice, which may be tied in with the writer's personality. I tend to be very impatient, focused and driven, and that comes out in my writing voice and pacing. One of my writer friends is a lifelong dreamer and philosopher, and his books have a far more leisurely pace compared to mine.

III. Pacing Quicksand and Avalanches

A well-paced book, like a healthy heart, has a consistent, logical rhythm to it. As conflict and tension rise and fall in the story, your pacing should shift right along with them.

Troubleshooting your pacing starts with a straight-through read of your story from beginning to end. Use a highlighter to mark passages that don't feel consistent in timing and rhythm with the rest of the story. Once you've identified these problem areas, it's time for a diagnosis.

Spots where you feel the story bogs down or drags are caught in pacing quicksand; you need to pull those passages out and get them moving. A lot of new and inexperienced writers end up in pacing quicksand because they can't resist explaining too many details for their reader. The safe bet is you need more action and dialogue to correct these areas, but you may also just need to trim down your wording, or see if you're telling more than showing.

Likewise when the story races too fast or is confusing -- these are pacing avalanches that need to be diverted and spread out. Narrative and description are not the only ways to deal with the pacing avalanche; you might need to buff up your scene choreography, your characterizations and/or your plot involvement. Don't fall into the pit trap of piling more explanations for the reader into the problem area -- then you may be right back up to your neck in quicksand.

As with any aspect of what we write, it can be hard to judge how well you handle story pacing, especially when you're close to the work. If you're not sure how consistent your pacing is, ask for some opinions. A writer or reader friend may be able to spot those pools of quicksand or crashing avalanches, and offer suggestions on how much less or more they'd like to see in the story.

IV. Why Pacing is Important

Gone are the days when a writer could spend three chapters luring a reader into a story. Most editors now want readers hooked on the first page, and kept on that hook for the rest of the story. Whether you agree with that or not, it's got to factor into how you pace what you write.

This is not to say everyone out there has to write only fast-paced stories or they'll never work in this biz. Stephen King doesn't hurry with the pacing of most of his novels, and after reading fifty pages of Suzanna Clarke using footnotes in her big fat whatever that book was, I'm firmly convinced the market for slow-paced writers out there is alive and well.

In the end, if you find the rhythm that works for you as a storyteller and you're consistent with it, you'll produce stories that keep the reader involved and you in print.

For a chance to win one of today's two Left Behind and Loving It goodie bags, which will be filled with a signed copy of my novel Blade Dancer (paperback), as well as unsigned copies of Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi (trade paperback) Soul Song by Marjorie M. Liu (paperback), Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith (fun guided writing journal), The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan (hardcover), The Very Thought of You by Angela Weaver (paperback), a copy of the May/June 2007 issue of Writers' Journal magazine and some surprises, in comments to this post ask a question or share your view on pacing, or just throw your name into the hat by midnight EST on Wednesday, July 11, 2007. I will draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners today's goodie bags. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Some other links on pacing:

Pacing by Dr. Vicki Hinze

Keep it Moving: Pacing a Novel by Darcy Pattison

Other virtual workshops now in progress:

LJ Cohen's Organize your Novel with a WIKI

Rosina Lippi's Workshop Day 1: The Story Machine

Shiloh Walker's Heat with Heart Day 1, finding that missing emotion

87 comments:

  1. Pacing is an area, I suspect, that can only be learned through practice, though sometimes even the best of authors commit the sin of slowing pace. Particularly, where you just want them to get on with it. I'm not going to name names, but it sure is annoying.

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  2. What do you do when there is a section of your work that is necessary to the story but just seems to drag? Even if you move it around or re-write it there's just something... uninteresting about it.

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  3. Pacing! what a great topic. Just starting out, I notice I can do a fast story or a slow story--and no mixing unless I want the whole thing to collapse.

    I like the heartbeat analogy. I'm going to see if I can write something that speeds up and slows down like that.

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  4. Good lesson, PBW. New writers *cough* do often make mistakes with pacing, and this is just one of those things that makes it that much easier to understand why pacing is so important.

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  5. Ulrich2:57 AM

    As a reader I prefer fast pacing books.

    Ulrich

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  6. Pacing is so important in any story. And I have to hand it to authors who have it down pat like yourself. It really helps add to a book by being able to tell it well.

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  7. I find pacing to be a second-draft worry. You mentioned that to get a sense of the problem you need to read the story straight through and I'd say that's true. Studying an outline for pacing won't help because it's likely to change as you write it and because you can't feel it well enough in the outline (if using one).

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  8. Unless the author is a superb stylist, I can't bring myself to read slow-paced novels, where nothing really happens for over 100 pages.

    What I want to ask is this: In your opinion, with everything being equal, do fast-paced books sell more than not-fast-paced ones? Or it doesn't matter as much as long as the story doesn't drag too much?

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  9. I think pacing is one of those things that's most often overlooked by newer writers, simply because it's something that I don't think happens without practice.

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  10. Thanks, PBW. You have a knack for making things very clear :).

    I'm reading that big fat whatever atm!

    My question would be, if two scenes with the same characters follow right on each other's heels, is it better to write a bit of a "nothing" scene to separate them, or just to let them be? They refuse to be combined.

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  11. Toss me into the hat!

    Pacing seems like it could be a natural talent. Some people pick it up right away, others have to learn it.

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  12. Hat. Ring. In. Throw.

    Pacing can make or break a novel for me. I expect action thrillers to be faster paced than, say, a literary meander through someone's life (e.g. The Memory Keeper's Daughter). Unfortuantley, this doesn't always seem to be the case. Pacing is something I've always found difficult to get right in my own writing, so any and all help is recieved with profound gratitude.

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  13. Great article! Almost as good as being at RWA :)

    For me, pacing is like voice - once you find it, it's always there for you and something that you sort of naturally fall into. Like breathing.

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  14. Bridget Medora7:50 AM

    I like the heartbeat analogy too. I knew that pacing should vary in a story, but thinking of it as a heartbeat just simplified the whole concept. Thanks PBW!

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  15. Question: if you're writing a novel with multiple POV characters - let's say you've got one character who is impatient and driven, and another who is more patient and philosophical - should the pacing in the impatient character's scenes be faster than the pacing in the philosophical character's scenes, or would that be too jarring to the reader?

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  16. I think I'm still figuring it all out, but I'm working on it *g*. I was working on a scene last night and rather than the narrator telling certain parts of the story I put it into dialogue, and then had the other characters make smart alek remarks to break it up a bit.

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  17. As always I enjoyed your article and the links that you provide. Please drop my name in the hat.

    Amanda

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  18. Oddly, I'm coming up on an area in my MS that I think has pacing problems. I think during my edits I took out the tension. My characters move through events, picking up clues. But a couple of the chapters in the middle seem...off. I think I have to cut some of the dialogue...

    Thanks for the great essay. You've given me lots to think on.

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  19. I think pacing does come naturally to some more than others, kind of like a person's natural rhythm and ability to dance...or in my case, lack of coordination on the dance floor.

    Thank goodness we can improve our writing skills without stepping on toes. ;)

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  20. Oh pacing! The bane of my existence, the holy grail of writing, the truly ephemeral art of how the story flows.

    It's such a subjective thing, and yet, everyone agrees when a book is fast-paced or slow. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of writing, to get the hang of it.

    This is one reason I personally frown on working on one project for years and years... it's hard to get a good sense of pace when you only write one story. The more you write, the better you'll get, and the more natural and intuitive pacing your story will become.

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  21. I like fast pacing also--but sometimes find the author neglects character development to make the story more action-driven.

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  22. name in the hat :)

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  23. Anonymous10:37 AM

    I read the first sentence and all I could see was pacing, as in expectant father pacing about the waiting room in a 1950's movie. How' that going to determine how a story moves along?

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  24. Pacing is always darn hard for me. There are times when it comes pretty good and everything flows, but sometimes I get bogged down the over description because I don't want the people to get to a certain part this early and I've got nothing else planned. On the flip side, sometimes I'm so busy writing the scene that looks so clear in my head when I go back and read it, it's sometimes a confusing jumble of random actions barely tied together.

    Thank you, the heartbeat analogy really helps things.

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  25. Thanks for doing your workshops again this year. I'll be at nationals but I'll be reading here! The information you present is invaluable.

    As for pacing, I'm a longwinded gal. Writing action has been a learning process. My natural voice slows the action, so I've been working on that.

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  26. JillVB11:37 AM

    Throw my name in the hat please!

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  27. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Thanks so much for the post as well as the opportunity to win some goodies. This is fast becoming my new favorite blog.

    One thing that drives me nuts about some romance novels is when pacing slows for the sake of characters' physical descriptions or sexual tension. I'm sure it's hard to know when to pile it on and when to go lightly, but boy does it bog down the pacing sometimes. When it' done right,though, it's awesome.

    Heather M.

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  28. I'm with the fast-pace crowd! I've found I can't get through a languid Chapter 1 without feeling urges to toss the book against the nearest wall!

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  29. Great information about pacing. Throwing my name in the hat.

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  30. Considering you are the queen of pacing, I found this post most helpful. Is pace something you consider as early the plotting stage in your process, or is it strictly something that comes during the word-by-word composition?

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  31. I am fortunate enough to be fairly talented at naturally pacing stories (neither too fast nor too slow), although it's still something I have to pay conscious attention to in revisions because, no matter how naturally talented a writer is, we all tend to get bogged down with too much telling rather than showing, or just fall in love with our own world-building and include stuff that doesn't necessarily serve the story well.

    And thanks for the wonderful workshops and chance to win SHINY! prizes. =)

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  32. One note about pacing within pacing . . .

    Obviously, pacing works a little differently for everyone and for each genre in which one writes. I've written more sermons than anything else, and obviously pacing is going to have to change when you have a character addressing people. If you have a speech in your work (for some reason, if you can't avoid it!), make sure you keep an eye on the reason you're giving the speech and pace it accordingly.

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  33. I agree that big fat books have readers still. I loved the Outlander series by Diana Giaboldan (I can't ever get her name right) but like the short and sweet ones like Shanna Swendson Once Upon Stilettos series too.

    It's good to mix it up.

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  34. So on the idea of NOT losing your reader in the first 3 chapters - how much of the main storyline plot/theme has to appear in those first three chapters? Should the saavy reader understand where the MC is at and anticipate her necessary character growth at that point? Or does the 1st 3 chapters just have to set things up and be interesting to the reader?

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  35. I understand that a book should move along and not stall, but I also wouldn't want the pace to be set so fast that I don't have time to take everything in. Pacing is also to an extent subjective, what's too slow for one person is too fast for someone else. I think the key is to find an author that writes at a pace that makes you comfortable. I personally don't want to be gobbling up a book. I want a book worth savoring.

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  36. Meredith2:45 PM

    I agree with whoever mentioned that pacing is a second draft worry. Especially since it seems like there are multiple types of pacings--one for the main story arc, one for the romance/sex (if applicable), and you can even break it down further--the pacing in the first chapter--the "hook", if you will, and that last chapter or so when everything hopefully gets resolved.

    Ugh. Just thinking about it is hurting my brain.

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  37. Thank you so much for this post! I know that pacing something that I have to work on...

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  38. Shelley3:06 PM

    Pacing is crucial. I have started many a great book where the pacing defeated me before I was able to fully enter the book and have left a few books behind when the pacing bogged down too much.

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  39. I find that my first drafts tend to be decently (though not perfectly) paced for the content of the scene. Unfortunately this allowed me to ignore the need to pace things with intent for quite a long while. Now when I go through and attempt to diddle with the pace consciously it doesn't always seem to come off quite the way it should.

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  40. Just throwing my name in the hat today.

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  41. I have a chapter with only one character in it and no matter what I do it seems to be passive and boggy.

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  42. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Throwing my name in as well.
    Sylvia;)

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  43. My favorite books tend to alternate between slow and fast. They may start out with a bang, but there's got to be some time for thought and reflection somewhere in there. So I like pacing that speeds up and slows down. I also tend to do that in my stories--some bangbang! action, and then, what the hell just happened? Let's see if we can make sense of it.

    Thanks so much for this article.

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  44. Anonymous6:36 PM

    Great post about pacing.

    I would like to throw my name into the hat!

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  45. Are you psychic, or what? I'm working on my second draft now, and I'm really struggling with the pacing. The first draft drug on way to slowly, so now I'm cutting and moving things around to speed it up. Thanks for the post!

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  46. I too am working on my pacing. I'm also throwing my name into the goodie hat. :-)

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  47. While something that catches the reader on the first page and doesn't let them go throughout the book is important, I think that to assume that has to be fast-paced would be erroneous. That first page must catch and hold a reader; however, there are many ways of doing so effectively with differing pacing methodologies. The key is to make it the right one for the story.

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  48. Looks like it's going to be a great workshop. Thank you!

    Also, throwing my name in.

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  49. I have a Q for ya:

    So, to check your pacing, you say to go back and read through your work. I'm afraid to take time away from writing b/c I don't want to fall into editing -- and for me that would involve industrial grade landscaping tools -- thus taking me out of writing and throwing me into a chasm of self-doubt.

    When would you suggest going back and reading through? Do you do this daily? Would you recommend daily re-reads for new writers?

    Thanks mucho, again!

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  50. sierrarayne8:36 PM

    I have a question on the telling versus showing issue. I can now recognize when I'm making this mistake but I'm not sure how to fix it. Any suggestions or better yet examples?


    Ann

    P.S. Thanks for the workshop

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  51. Very good information. Tossing my name in the hat.

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  52. Looks like blogger ate my comment on the post below, so here it is again.

    I have put up the first part of my Battle Workshop. :)

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  53. Maybe I'm malleable as a new writer, but I've found my pacing will shift subtly with the book I'm reading at the time. I took a break to read Red Dragon today and I came back with my characters all Hannibal Lecter'd out. Quite amusing in 17th century Asia.

    Throwing my name in the hat, btw.

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  54. interesting blog and i am tossing my name in the hat.

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  55. Anonymous10:55 PM

    I learned a lot about pacing from one novel. You know, the kind written by a family friend. In this case, the author was the daughter of a friend of my M-I-L.

    Every single paragraph was a work of art, beautiful, rich, detailed...and dull as tarnish. A sprinkle of this type of 'painted' paragraph is great. A whole book of it is like trying to walk through molasses. And I still don't know what the plot was.

    As I read that book, I tried to identify where the pacing needed to 'move along' or 'wallow around in adjectives'. I think that was the first time I began the journey of grasping the importance of pacing. Since I *had* to read it, I also got a lesson in patience.

    Bless her heart, the woman published another book and my M-I-L, lord love her, presented me with it too. The biggest difference I noted from Book #1 to Book #2? Someone had explained pacing to the author.

    Thanks for the essay. A few more light bulbs went off.

    Karen, the lurker

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  56. Throwing my name in the hat. I've never given much thought to pacing before, but I'm primarily a short story writer. Definitely something to think about though. . .

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  57. I agree with a lot of the posters, who don't like a book that has some really slow paced sections that go on for a few hundred pages... But I think the problem there is that the author's idea of the appropriate pace doesn't match with mine :) And stalling isn't the same as having a slow pace...

    I appreciate this workshop... Good pacing is definitely hard for me and this's good advice :)

    (Also throwing my name into the hat)

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  58. Pacing is the hardest part for me. One thing that's helped me is to use scenes and sequels. I don't use them for the first, fast draft--I convert my prose into scenes and sequels while revising.

    I've also found Holly Lisle's pacing workshop immeasurably helpful.

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  59. thanks. I realize I have a hard time with fast pace, most of the time it too slow, so I need to write short sentences or sentence fragments. are fragments ok in the writing business?
    ~Annie

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  60. I am tossing my name in the hat here. My pacing is far from consistent. I know I write all over the board. :)

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  61. Adele Dawn1:41 AM

    Bad pacing is like being a passenger in a car with a driver who rides the pedals.

    "Oh look, it's green!" VROOM

    "Oh crud, the light is red!" SLAM

    I'd be happy to have my named tossed in the hat. :)

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  62. Thank you - you have illustrated this superbly and defined something that was nebulous and othertimes intuitive. I find getting the pacing right in the first 50 pages the hardest, but once I'm into the flow of things, the momentum seems to come more naturally.

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  63. Anonymous3:14 AM

    I seem to be in the minority here, when I say that pacing seems to come naturally to me, with some editing for flow. As long as I can visualize the scene, the pacing more often than not is instinctive.

    Thanks for the workshop and giveaway, PBW.

    -Kayla

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  64. My name in your hat, please. Thank you for the workshops. They're very helpful.

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  65. This article came at such a perfect time for me...as I'm needing to really work on my pacing. Thanks for the help, it helps explain where I need to pick up the pace!

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  66. my name in the hat please. thanks.

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  67. I just recently read something interesting on pacing in Lawrence Block's Telling Lies For Fun And Profit in which he talks about springing forward and falling back. Jumping into the middle of the action at the beginning of a scene and going back to briefly explain the stuff that would have bogged us down in the beginning if we'd told it in temporal order. I thought it was a neat approach because he discusses how each scene is a chance for a new beginning.

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  68. aka_nik wrote: What do you do when there is a section of your work that is necessary to the story but just seems to drag? Even if you move it around or re-write it there's just something... uninteresting about it.

    Scenes like the one you describe are ones I usually cut out of the manuscript and rewrite from scratch. I also find that if I take the essential information from the original scene and present it in a completely new way (from a different POV character, as part of dialogue, etc.) that I avoid repeating the doldrums.

    If you'd rather keep the scene, then try to determine why it's so blah when you read it. For example, if you find you're giving the reader a lot of information via the characters' thoughts, and not much else, you may need to use more dialogue and build up the action so the characters aren't standing around delivering mental soliloquies.

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  69. Wow, this is great! I think I'll be saving this whole series to refer back to over and over again. Thank you.

    Oh, and put my name in the hat for goodies too, please!

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  70. Angelle Trieste wrote: What I want to ask is this: In your opinion, with everything being equal, do fast-paced books sell more than not-fast-paced ones? Or it doesn't matter as much as long as the story doesn't drag too much?

    I don't think it matters. We see more fast-paced genre novels on the market these days because frankly that's what most editors are demanding we write, but it's no guarantee of success. Also, some authors just seem to get away with writing these big fat takes-forever-to-read works. I picked up the first book of a hugely successful semi-literary genre series everyone has been so crazy about, and discovered to my dismay that the author, while obviously intelligent and talented, writes like an injured snail crawls.

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  71. Buffyquirrel wrote: My question would be, if two scenes with the same characters follow right on each other's heels, is it better to write a bit of a "nothing" scene to separate them, or just to let them be? They refuse to be combined.

    I'd let them be for now, and come back and read them again in a couple of weeks or when you finish the story (that may give you a creative rest, and allow you to come back to them with a fresh perspective.)

    Nothing or filler scenes only slow down your story. Putting one in deliberately is like having a delicious nine-course gourmet meal during which you serve a bowl of lukewarm pureed baby food --it's not a big thing, but it could spoil the entire meal for your guests.

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  72. Zoe wrote: Question: if you're writing a novel with multiple POV characters - let's say you've got one character who is impatient and driven, and another who is more patient and philosophical - should the pacing in the impatient character's scenes be faster than the pacing in the philosophical character's scenes, or would that be too jarring to the reader?

    Very good question. I often have characters who are mirror-opposites like your examples, and I find their dialogue tends to reflect their personality basics, i.e. an impatient person speaks quickly and often thoughtlessly while a patient person will take a minute to choose their words, speak cautiously, etc.

    Pacing hinges on more than your characterizations, though. If the impatient character is going through a scene with little physical action and tension, their personality won't carry the pace (just as a patient character being chased and shot at by killer won't slow down the action simply because he's thoughtful.)

    I would evaluate each scene based on all the components -- characters, action, dialogue, setting, plot threads, mood, everything -- and then go for the pacing that feels appropriate to the entire package (often, as many people have mentioned here, you'll also find that rhythm naturally as you write the scene, no matter who is in it.)

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  73. Heather wrote: This is one reason I personally frown on working on one project for years and years... it's hard to get a good sense of pace when you only write one story. The more you write, the better you'll get, and the more natural and intuitive pacing your story will become.

    Amen to that -- excellent observation, Heather.

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  74. Anonymous wrote: I read the first sentence and all I could see was pacing, as in expectant father pacing about the waiting room in a 1950's movie. How' that going to determine how a story moves along?

    Well, you can use it as an analogy -- think of your dad pacing in the labor and delivery room, and how he speeds up as he hears mom yell, and slow down as he worries about how to pay for the hospital bill. He never stops pacing until it's all over, just as the heart of a novel never stops beating until it reaches its conclusion.

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  75. Rob wrote: Considering you are the queen of pacing, I found this post most helpful.

    Finally, I get to be queen of something! Well, there was that week I spent as Latrine Queen in the Air Force . . . :) Thanks for the kind words.

    Is pace something you consider as early the plotting stage in your process, or is it strictly something that comes during the word-by-word composition?

    I always think about what sort of pace I want for the story before I write it, but I think it also comes out as I write the story from the characters and story elements I've set up. Voice definitely influences pacing too -- I seem to be naturally fast-paced as a writer, and I try not to fight the flow. :)

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  76. Thanks, PBW. I think that's what I needed to hear :).

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  77. Good info -- but I'll have to digest it later when my head isn't about ready to explode. Just throwing my name in today.

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  78. Val Griswold-Ford8:11 PM

    Tossing my name in the hat as well.

    I've been playing with pacing - like several others have mentioned, that tends to be a second-draft consideration.

    Thank you for doing these, Lynn!

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  79. As a reader and fledgling writer, this is such an important topic. Thanks for covering it so well. My question was the same as that of aka_nik, and you answered that superbly already. Thanks for the fabulous post!

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  80. Sandra wrote: So on the idea of NOT losing your reader in the first 3 chapters - how much of the main storyline plot/theme has to appear in those first three chapters?

    Enough to keep the reader turning pages to Chapter 4 and beyond. How you do this is up to you, but I think you should focus more on establishing your main characters, the novel conflict, and set into motion the events that will lead to the story's resolution -- and do it fast.

    Should the saavy reader understand where the MC is at and anticipate her necessary character growth at that point?

    A savvy writer should. Ideally the reader should be so involved that they are't analyzing the story because they're captivated by it.

    Or does the 1st 3 chapters just have to set things up and be interesting to the reader?

    I'm not a fan of writing only to set up the reader for what's ahead -- I find writers who take that approach could delete the first three chapters of the novels and it wouldn't hurt the story, but everyone has their own preferences.

    Most browsers in stores won't read more than the first couple of pages before they make a purchase decision, so I'd say you've got no more than the first five pages to get them involved in your story.

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  81. witchofbreithla wrote: Are you psychic, or what?

    I'm not psychic, but I play one here on the blog. :)

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  82. leatherdykeuk wrote: I have a chapter with only one character in it and no matter what I do it seems to be passive and boggy.

    Ugh, solo scenes are the worst ones to get moving. One tactic is to put in flashbacks, but I prefer sticking the character with a physical challenge. In the very first scene in Blade Dancer, my protag is carrying her mother's corpse out into the desert to bury it. She has a conversation with the body, and imagines her mother's ghost responding. While gruesome, it allowed me to establish the character, the conflict catalyst and a couple of important subplot threads.

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  83. the frustrated writer wrote: So, to check your pacing, you say to go back and read through your work. I'm afraid to take time away from writing b/c I don't want to fall into editing -- and for me that would involve industrial grade landscaping tools -- thus taking me out of writing and throwing me into a chasm of self-doubt.When would you suggest going back and reading through? Do you do this daily? Would you recommend daily re-reads for new writers?


    I wait to do the final read-through for things like pacing until after I finish the manuscript. My daily edits are only for technical blips like typos and grammar. I think it's a good idea to at least spellcheck what you write, but once that edit is done I would put it away and move on (see more details in VW#2 on editing and revising, above.)

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  84. sierrarayne wrote: I have a question on the telling versus showing issue. I can now recognize when I'm making this mistake but I'm not sure how to fix it. Any suggestions or better yet examples?

    The first section of Lori Handeland's article Self-Editing explains how to fix this problem perfectly -- you might want to check it out.

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  85. Annie wrote: are fragments ok in the writing business?

    Plenty of writers do. I use sentence fragments sparingly but regularly, and some editors I've worked with have complained about it (depends on if you work with someone who is more concerned with grammar than story.) I consider it a style choice, and usually by the third or fourth book the editor finally gets that and accepts how I write. Your mileage may vary.

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  86. Anonymous12:03 AM

    I tried to throw my name in the hat last night here-----didn't work too well. I'll try once more now.
    Thanks!
    Lori L. Lake
    lori@lorillake.com

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