A few months ago, I signed up for a ‘free’ subscription to Writer’s Digest. Well, guess what folks, I am now inundated with offers from Writer’s Digest and its partner organizations.
More than a dozen in the last two weeks! Hmm. Marketing run amok? A great way to get this writer – and probably many others – to hit the unsubscribe button.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.
Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The first time I heard this phrase, I had no idea what it meant. And now I can toss it around like any other seasoned writer.
Time & Regret is my third novel and having paid attention to some advice Emma Darwin offered on her blog, This Itch Of Writing, I’m in the midst of deleting the first eleven chapters of the story. Let me tell you, friends, eleven chapters represents a lot of time and effort, a lot of imagining, a lot of phrasing and rephrasing. But it has to be done.
Emma said the following:
One of the very first bits of clear writerly advice I ever came across was the short-story writer’s dictum of “Start as near the end as possible”. Later, I encountered the thriller-writer’s “Get in late and get out early”, which is a double-ended version of the same idea.
Emma’s advice came at just the right moment. With so many life events going on, I haven’t had time to write for months, but the niggling thought in the back of my mind whenever I considered Time & Regret was the need to pump up the drama. I had a few ideas but nothing had seemed right. With Emma’s post a lightbulb went on. She had nailed the problem.
So now I’m going through the first eleven chapters looking for bits that need to be woven into some other scene – character details, essential facts, a few lovely bits of description. The rest, I’m killing off. Rather invigorating I might add.
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Several days ago, a very kind literary agent offered feedback on two fifty page snippets of my writing. While he had some positive comments, when asked more directly, he said that my writing “does not have the pace and energy to capture the enthusiasm of this reader”. Good to know.
Being a methodical woman, I set out to examine the notion of pacing – I should disclose that I had already adjusted the pace of one of these novels in order to improve its opening chapters. I started the novel differently, cut out several chapters and tightened the language – or so I thought. Do I need to do more?
Let’s begin with a definition of pacing.
- Pacing is the measurement of how quickly you go from point A to point B. (Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages)
- Pacing is word count. Minimum word count. (Steven Taylor Goldsberry, The Writer’s Book of Wisdom)
- Pacing is the rhythm of the novel, of the chapters and scenes and paragraphs and sentences … and the speed at which novel events occur and unfold. (Dr. Vicki Hinze)
- Pace is the tempo at which a scene moves. The pace varies within a novel, depending on the emotion an author wants the reader to experience at any given time. (Marilyn R Henderson, The Fine Art of Pace – Making Every Scene in Your Novel Count)
- Pacing, as it applies to fiction, could be described as the manipulation of time. (Gerry Visco, Techniques to Establish Pacing)
- Pacing is the tempo of the story, the speed at which information is provided and the dynamics of the rising tension. (Gail Gaymer Martin, Pacing – Too Fast or Too Slow)
Other writers talk about the subtlety and complexity of pacing, describing the difficulty an author has stepping back from his or her work to objectively look at overall pace in the context of conflict, tension, the reader’s emotional experience, reader fatigue and reader confusion. At times, a slower pace is necessary; at other times, a slow pace creates boredom.
Here’s a list I compiled of ways to increase and decrease pace:
|Strive for brevity; Use lean writing with fewer adjectives and adverbs
||Description, particularly ones that are steeped in sensory input and rich in texture and sound (DVH)
|Zoom in – eg: beads of sweat on a face
||Zoom out, describe a wide panorama
|Keep the action rolling; include lots of action
||Reduce the psychological intensity
|Trim physical detail/description
||Slow the pace in order to place emphasis on something
|Avoid analysis, rumination
||Slow the pace after a dramatic, active scene
|Increase narrative tension by raising the stakes.
||Resolve some of the conflict
|Create white space on the page
||Slow the pace to expand emotional impact – a love scene or an intense situation
|Reduce telling and description; replace with dramatization
||Note specific details that seem larger than life
|Dialogue speeds pace, gives illusion of action, particular abrupt, pointed dialogue
||Long blocks of narration slows the pace
|Increase the conflict
||Long flowing sentences; soft sounding verbs
|Edit out insignificant actions
||Layering details, one upon another
|Short, snappy sentences and paragraphs; towards the novel’s end, short chapters with more drama
||More relaxed dialogue
|Cut scene short at a dramatic moment
||Flashbacks and backstory; remember that readers are interested in what’s going to happen not what has happened (SK)
|Crisp, sharp verbs
|Use sentence fragments
|Switch back and forth between POV
|Check each scene for a crisis situation
What will I do now?
Armed with these ideas, I’m going to crawl through one of my manuscripts noting slow, medium and fast paced areas then block these out against my chapter/scene outline. Perhaps I will have a eureka moment.
If anyone has other advice, please let me know.
By the way: SK means the suggestion comes from Steven King’s book On Writing; DVH indicates an idea from Dr. Vicki Hinze’s article on Pacing.