Thursday, September 16, 2010

Loosen up on the throttle

One of the problems I've faced every time I write something of novel length is pacing. My stories start out with great pacing, because I like to introduce the characters along with a few flashes of action. I think this creates a good mix of pleasing backstory, bullets, and gentler scenes.

However, as time goes on and the conflicts unroll themselves onto the scene, I tend to pick up speed. It's like listening to a really rockin' tune while you're driving, and all of a sudden you're thirty, forty, fifty over the limit. My pacing goes from action-based fantasy tale to absolute, mad-cap thriller.

I'm trying to figure out how to stifle this process, because the result--books that wind up finishing fifty thousand words before they ought to--is totally undesirable. What kind of scenes ought to go in the middle of the book? For some reason, no matter how much I read, I can't seem to get a grasp on how published authors manage to keep their pacing in check and the story enjoyable the whole way through.

Anyone have any tips or suggestions? Payment is in e-props, while supplies last.

-bn

5 comments:

  1. Planning. Discussion. Strategery. Even-shudder-Relationships. Write a "board-meeting scene", where a passle of characters get together and work out what each are going to do. You don't have to keep it, but it'll serve as practice for pacing. A strength of writing long fiction is that you can focus more on Motivation without having to stick to the theme.

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  2. Hmm, having not written something intended to be novel length for a while, any suggestions I give may or may not be helpful. Perhaps add in a major setback? Huge obstacles take time- and words- to overcome.

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  3. I'm digging it. One of the major empty holes is that the main clutch of characters don't too much problem solving; they just kind of... have the solutions fall into their laps. My obstacles need to be more mighty, and my characters more active...

    Thanks for the tips, Marina and David.

    -bn

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  4. Meander. You ever look at a cow out the window while driving and suddenly think of your best friend from elementary school? Or learn that your grandparents' house is on fire and your first thought is "but their house is so nice!"? Everybody has seemingly random thoughts based on the associations they've made throughout their lifetime. Perhaps your childhood pal is the first person who told you that aliens abduct cows, or the museum quality of your grandparents' house struck you with awe at every visit. Pausing to toss in the seemingly irrational thoughts that sometimes occur to a character is a great way to slow down the pace. You can add in bits of the memory that inspired the irrational thought to slow it down even more. It takes some practice to get something that's random enough to feel "real" (being purposefully random/irrational is actually pretty hard) but there's an added bonus: you get to see another layer of the character in question at the same time.

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  5. Eileen! That is a genius idea. I always drop in those "dropping into the character's mind" moments but I don't do it with that natural way that we actually do it. Me likes, me likes...

    -bn

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