1. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Pacing: Please Advise.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by e(g), Jul 7, 2011.

    Does anyone have any advice on pacing a story? Or maybe you can recommend a book or an article on it. I worry that I write with too fast of pace, but then I worry that if I don't keep the pace up I will commit the unpardonable sin of boring my reader.

    I've started writing a new novel that I really like, and I would like to brush up my pacing skills before I start any revisions on it.
     
  2. flipflop
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    flipflop Senior Member

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    Write the whole story at what ever pace you like. Then get a few trusted friends to review your work and ask them then. nobody can write a work of art in there first draft, so dont try. its easy to rewrite to slow or speed up a peice, unless you finish the novel on your fourth page or something
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Fast pace is good. I definitely don't believe in boring filler scenes. But you can write too hastily if you skim over an entire scene that should take the time to be engaging. For example, if you just write "A serial killer tried to break in but it turned out to be only her annoying clingy ex," (or the one-paragragh-long equivalent), it'll suck because that's the kind of thing that needs to have built-up suspense, and that takes at least a few pages to do right.

    But as far as big-picture pacing, no I don't think it can move too fast. If you feel this makes the book to short, try adding other characters' conflicts, or a subplot.
     
  4. another wasted day
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    another wasted day Member

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    It helps to read your writing out loud, or find a word processing app with speech capabilities. Having the cadences of the sentences read out loud helps with pacing, at least for me.
     
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  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Long, complex sentences slow the pace, as does an attention to descriptive detail.

    When you want a faster pace, use shorter, crisper sentences and back off from description.

    Vary the pace, too. Surrounding a fast paced section with slower-paced passages emphasizes the rapid pace in between. Likewise, surrounding a slow paced scene with faster paced material makes the reduced pace more obvious.

    As well as sentence length, word length also affects pace. Simpler words, and more active verbs drive a faster pace than longer, more sonorous words and more passive and leisurely verbs.
     
  6. Jewels
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    Jewels Member

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    I think it's best to get your first draft out, then put it to the side for a while before going back and reading it in full. You will then get an idea of which parts need to be filled out and described in more detail, so that the pace can be slowed down a bit if necessary.

    I tend to do only basic descriptions in the first draft and then go back and add details in the second, so my first drafts tend to consist of one event on top of another, until I fill it out. Might not be everyone's approach but it works for me.
     
  7. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    I appreciate that, and perhaps I'll seek out a beta reader when I'm finished revising it.

    Interesting you say, because I've read a lot of John Grisham's work, and his stuff is pretty fast paced--not exciting, just fast paced. And Stephen King's work can be much slower. His next novel out in November is only a few pages shy of a thousand. But I think you hit it on the head when you imply that it depends on what's being shown at the time. The drive time from one town to another surely doesn't need a lot of exposition, but the suspense of a murder-about-to-happen needs to be drawn out.

    Thanks for your advice.

    That's a good idea. Of course, I don't really need all that technology. I see it plainly when I read it. Thanks, though, for your input.

    I hadn't thought of that before. Thanks, Cogito.


    What your saying is very true. I guess I tend to be somewhere in-between. I try to write 300 words a day and write them as best I can, but I don't revise at that point. The revision comes later. I know 300 words sounds pretty slim, but I do it every day and that comes to be an 80,000-word book in about 9 months (about 250 pages of a regularly published hardback or paperback). I try to revise, edit, and work on publishing one book while I write the rough draft of another--at least that's the theory.

    Thanks for your input.

    ~ e of g
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    And I often skip through Stephen King scenes when they get to feeling far too slow, because I hate horror novels where there's only a few actual scary parts. I'm not saying this to be argumentative; maybe I just like a faster pace than most people, but if I had to risk being "too" something either way, I'd rather fast over stretched out. This might be due to other factors though: I'm involved in lots of fast-paced things, and I'm a journalist used to writing in a boom-boom-boom manner, so it might just be ingrained in me. I can also understand the mindset of wanting build-ups, but I think they can go on for too long and be tedious if not done exactly right.

    I meant that between too fast and too slow, it's better to be *reasonably* too fast: as I've said, a one-paragraph description of a murder or stalking incident will not suffice.
     
  9. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Yeah, exactly. I mean I hear what you're saying, especially in the horror genre, which this book I'm writing is part of. My wife says the same thing as you, too. In fact, she doesn't think my first novel is too fast paced at all, and I feel like it races. But I can't stand over-description that's unnecessary, like:

    She picked up the supple yet turgid Concord grape and felt the roundness combined with the cool memories of the refrigerator from whence it came. Did God intend for the grape to live out its life in a cold dark hell only to be bitten into, spilling out its contents like a dead bloated bum in the alleyway of life...

    Just eat the damn grape already! :mad:

    So, I think I agree with you: I'd rather err on the side of "reasonably" fast than too slow.

    Thanks for your opinion.
     
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  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    "Supple yet turgid"? Haha I'm not even gonna go there, but you made me laugh! Great description, even though it was in fun and to make a point, still pretty epic. +rep.

    I don't know, I also feel that in horror novels, there's too many boring and pointless scenes for "character development." Don't get me wrong, characters need to be developed. But show their personalities, inner strengths/weaknesses etc through their actions and how they handle being put in certain situations. Like, I don't know, maybe how they handle various SCARY situations, as it's supposed to be a scary book? ;) I feel like horror novels have way too many huge blocks that just focus on someone's divorce, road trip partying, budding crush, etc. If I wanted to read about slowly developing relationships where there's only something chilling going on 10 percent of the time, I wouldn't have picked up something from the HORROR section. ;)
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh how you'll hate The Handmaid's Tale... there was a full paragraph describing an egg - its exact texture and etc :D

    But then again, your example only sounded bad because it's about a grapefruit! (as in, good example that shows description/slow-pacing to be bad) What if it was a character musing about his life? (which I, for some reason, like to do)
     

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