Sunday, January 3, 2010

Creative writing tips - Pace

PACE- The pace of a novel is linked to its page-turning factor. Novels of different genres require different pace rates. A thriller should be fast paced with much of the action happening or being foreshadowed, just below the pace of machine gun fire, whereas a literary novel will go along at a gentle pace, giving a lot more mundane details, though poetically written of course. In between these a steady pace is required. One that doesn't bog you down in too much description or have your characters forever involved in everyday tasks like making tea or giving detail of everything everyone is doing as they speak.

You can get an idea of the pace of your novel based on reading novels in your chosen genre. Not all published authors get it right, so think about the following as you read: Are there paragraphs you skip? Why did you skip them? Probably because they contained what the author thought was giving you a 'feel' for the characters lives or what is known as 'author intrusion' - giving you information you know the characters couldn't know but the author feels you should know. Maybe, it is because the author has suddenly gone into a long, poetic description of the scenery just when you want to know what happens next.

Other pace-slowing gaphs are: constant speech tags coupled with stage directions - He said whilst he struggled with his cuff link - she said as she pulled up her ever so slightly tight jeans, why did she have that extra piece of pie, she sighed? You know the kind of thing. Well, if you don't, you may be making the same mistakes in your own writing so watch out for them.

And yet, the third significant slower is, adverbs. Where everything is described as being: gradually, finally, shortly, gratefully, angrilly sorrowfully etc..etc.. known as the 'ly' words, sometimes just cutting these can increase the pace twofold.

Pace is usually fixed in a re-write and again in the final polish as you decide what is essential for the reader to know and what isn't. What helps the story flow and what doesn't. It is then you cut, cut, cut.

Let us look at an example:
Valarie paced steadily up and down coming to a halt at the window long enough to take in the calming view. She gazed longingly out at the hills, noted the various shades of green, some of the larger hills were capped with snow appearing as though they were wearing mob caps. She thought longingly and lovingly of her granny and how she used to tell her tales of her days in service. Then, her attention was taken by the Willow tree below. Its dew drops falling to the ground like the tears in her heart. The distinct sound of a cup clinking on a saucer turned her. She hadn't heard the door open or realised that Gary was making her a hot drink. He didn't look at her but walked over to the coffee table placed in the centre of this large room. The coffee tables beautifully carved legs match those of the winged chairs lovingly covered in soft green throws. The whole room had an elegance. A timelessness. Valerie crossed over and picked up her cup. It shook in her hands as she looked at the man who had raped her all those years ago. GET ON WITH THE STORY!!! TELL ME WHY VALERIE IS PACING...WHY IS SHE UPSET...WHO IS GARY, WHY IS HER HEART CRYING... NOT WHAT HE SCENERY IS LIKE OR THE FURNITURE..FOR GOD SAKE...CUT-CUT-CUT.

Get the picture? Yes this is an exaggeration, but I have come across similar in the manuscripts I have reviewed and in some published novels. Of course we are all individuals and there are readers who enjoy this meandering around characters thoughts and surroundings, and I am not saying none should be included. Some should,to set the scene and put flesh on the bones of our story, but please don't give me so much info about none essentials that I lose the thread and interest in reading further or I skip whole paragraphs.

Pace can be linked to word count to make it easier to grasp. If I have to read one hundred words to tell me that Gary was the man that raped Valerie in the past, words that described hills, granny's stories and room settings instead of forty words which would give just the information I need fleshed out with a feel for where we are and nice little touches that hint at feeling, like the simile to the willow tree, I will get bored and lose interest and the scene itself will lose dramatic impact.

Take any scene you have written. How many words does it contain? Could the meaning of that paragraph and all the information it contains be told in less words? Which words could you cut? Did you need that speech tag/stage direction? Would the reader be able to imagine how a person spoke by what they said, or do you really need to tell them? If you do, could you change what was said to mean the same but convey feeling as well? eg: 'You've let yourself go since you lost the baby, look at you... ' Phil said knocking over a chair in his anger. 'And I wish, you would take more care about what you say', said Patricia as she angrily tidied the tray, trying to stack the cups which seemed to have suddenly developed bulged bottoms. 'You hurt my feelings sometimes, you swine.' A cup fell over as she lifted the tray, a small thing, but a trigger to her tears. --- Too long, needs a lot of description and props to give a feel of the anger in them both and the hurt felt by Patricia. Presuming the reader already knows Patricia and Phil are wherever they are and are engaged in a row, Try: 'You look like a slut and have done since your miscarriage... ' 'You Bastard! Cut me in two, why don't you?' 'That's right turn on the tears.' 26 words opposed to 79 it took for the first example. So in half the time the reader will know how each is feeling, there is anger in the words, and they will know Patricia is upset. They will also know who is speaking without being told. Pace is upped.

If you need further help with pace issues, email me at If you wish to send up to three chapters for a review on this or any other writing craft help, please give me a word count first as I make a small charge of between £15-£20 depending on length. I work by using your own piece and rewriting it to give you an example of what I am trying to convey and how it can work in your own writing. There is no charge for general queries, I am always happy to help. I have needed so much myself over the years, some of which I have spent thousands of pounds trying to get from Author Advisers, don't fall into the same trap. They pull you in with telling you they are a scout for leading agencies and then bleed you dry, play with your dreams until you feel you will never be a writer because they are saying they have gone as far as they can with you and the best thing you can do is give it all up. Well, I proved them wrong, I am a published Author. So can you be. Good luck and best wishes, Mary.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts