Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Pacing your Novel

Hi folks
Well, I was going to post yesterday, but remembered it was the Jubilee and figured you were all busy at street parties and the like.
The idea for today's post came from two key things: 1) I was asked to consider the pace of a Canadian YA author's novel, which I was beta reading. and 2) as I was writing a section of The Dating Game, I realised that a section wasn't as fast paced as I would like it to be.

Coincidentally, I went for a run on Sunday for the first time in 5 months.  As I ran, I told myself to be careful not to overdo it (I am a hell for leather kinda person, so I really have to keep myself in check - when I get an idea in my head there is no stopping me!).  I realised that I could draw a comparison between running and pacing and writing and pacing.
You want to hook your readers in at the start, keep the momentum going all the way through and build up towards the end, delivering your best, or punchline/ultimate twist at the very last possible moment.
But you can't allow yourself to get weak or lazy in that middle section. 
I suppose what I'm trying to say, is, although I am a great proponent of 'just write - just get it down', afterwards, if you're not happy with it, leave it.  But then go back to it, a day or so later and review and potentially edit it.   I know some writers edit the previous day's work, before starting that day's chapter. There's no point moving your story forward with a section you are not happy with, as if your gut feeling is it's not right, or it's not good enough, you're probably right. Plus, if you don't like it much, then how are your readers supposed to?

I also rewrote my chapter plan yesterday for The Dating Game. I realised that although I had stuck to 'the plan' for the first 7 chapters (by the way, this is a plan I wrote 3 years ago when I wrote the first 3 chapters of this novel), I had deviated quite massively in the next 7 chapters.  Now this wasn't a bad thing, as the book will be better for the change in storyline and far less predictable. However, what it did mean was I had to re-do the chapter plan, understand exactly how many chapters I am going for and how many words I need approximately in those chapters, to arrive at my expected word count. 
The welcome thing I discovered is that word count -wise, I am completely on track, which should help with less editing needing done later.

There are some excellent novels and series I have read, where the pacing is way off and spoils the novel slightly. No-one wants to fall asleep in the middle.  I can think of one particular series where book 2 is so sleep-inducing in parts, that the movie was a welcome relief, yet the other books in the series were much punchier. Don't over-explain or drag things out. It's boring!

The other good thing I realised when out running the other day (this is maybe not rocket science, but has kept me tied to this laptop for the last few months) is that I can work, as I run - well, until I get too out of breath anyway. I was thinking about my characters and how the next chapter should be fleshed out, as I was trying to breathe - which was becoming more difficult by the second. But, I had moments of clarity and even though I had no pen with me (remiss I know), running or exercise generally is a great way to clear the mind and focus you. 
So, I was thinking we should have a WritersGetFit challenge. Who's with me?!

Oh by the way, I also wrote about 2200 words yesterday, after fixing that chapter plan, so it was a productive day.
bye for now, Sooz


  1. very productive day by all accounts! Well done on running and getting a fair bit wrote.


    1. hi Lainy - unfortunately I haven't run since, but have written a lot more! Must address couch potato trend though - thx for the comment, Sooz