Working on craft for a writer is a lifetime achievement. We each continue to pursue the art of writing as we continue to study the craft.
Not an easy trick.
With career advancement comes so many bids for time and attention, especially in the age of too many promotions and fewer people willing to spend money on your book. Remember, with the immediacy of self publishing, with the ever-present offer of “free reads” and the expansion of ebooks making the market so much more challenging, we all need to continue to improve our craft.
Needless to say, the art of craft had become an ongoing pursuit for me. So recently I decided I needed to work on the pacing of my current novel. To the in house library I went, seeing which famous and accomplished author could enlighten me on this point and help to improve my writing.
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel By Hallie Ephron mentions pacing once. That’s correct, a single entry, a two paragraph entry. I’ll sum up– keep an eye on your pacing– controlling and modulating the speed and intensity of your story.
On Writing Well By William Zinssner, no mention of pacing ; not found in the index.
Novelist’s Boot Camp 101 Ways to Take Your Book from Boring to Bestseller By Todd A. Stone, no mention of pacing.
No plot, no problem! By Chris Baty, no pacing either, of any kind. No mention of pacing.
But let’s digress just for a moment and look at a writer who makes his living as a writer of fiction.
The Novel Writers Toolkit By Bob Mayer, and finally we have arrived. He not only mentions pacing twice but references it with the timeline. Very important information for the new writer and also for those with more experience. He addresses overall pacing and its need to be smooth. He cautions against jerking your reader a round, and spending too much time on scenes you enjoy writing and giving short shrift on the scenes which are more work for the writer. He writes about overall pace and also speaks to pacing within each chapter. All good advice and I highly recommend this book.
The First Five Pages By Noah Lukeman. Finally, an entire chapter which addresses Pacing and Progression, not counting the huge rewrite of Robert McKee’s Story, Lukeman takes six pages to tell us and to show us the problems of too fast/too slow pacing and not only to give examples but exercises to increase our own expertise.
Making a Scene By Jordan E. Rosenfeld deals more effectively with pacing than any other craft entry on the shelves. He addressed pacing and scene length and its influence on the mood and tone of individual scenes. He deals in specifics, addressing where pacing counts, dealing in precise chapter by chapter distinction of how to deal with pacing in different types of scene; contemplative, dramatic, first and final.
Last but not least–
The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel By Christie Craig & Faye Hughes. The two successful romance authors suggest reading a scene aloud to determine a number of incorrect uses that are pacing, those which escape not only newbie authors but experienced writers also. They discuss “upping the stakes” and” increasing the suspense”. They address tweaking story arcs and give tips for faster pacing, speeding up the story and keeping it moving. These two successful romance authors give specific examples of what should stay and what should go, and also recommend Scene & Structure, By Jack Bickham. (While writing this, my copy was out of the library on loan, but I do own it and it is a keeper.)
I need to mention I find it interesting the authors of genre specific fiction had more to say about pacing than many writing teachers. Notice the romance authors– those who own roughly 70% of all fiction sold market in the USA today– also teach writing, Mayer, Craig and Hughes, and are very successful in multiple genres.
So tell me, how do you gauge if you’ve effectively plotted and paced your novel?