Friday, February 21, 2014

The Perfect Pace

Ah, pacing. It's one of those things that either comes pretty naturally to a writer, or that you really have to work at. But if you're one of the second group, you do have to work at it because it's important. Really important.

Pacing is kind of like a book's secret ingredient. Readers don't always know what it is, it's not always something they can identify, it's just that little something that made the book even better (or made a good book not quite as satisfying). This means that whether it comes naturally to you or not, it's something you're going to have to learn how to do and how to do well so that readers will be hooked on how you write and keep coming back to you and demanding new books like I do on facebook with some of my author friends. Haha.

I read a fabulous recently. Fabulous. Seriously. The whole time I was gushing to my hubby (who was trying to watch the Olympics since apparently watching them is its own sport in our house) about the character transformation, and the unique premise of this book, and I went on and on and on.

And then I kind of quit talking. Thankfully this wasn't a kindle book, so the ending didn't take me by surprise since I could see the pages that were left, but there were so many hits for the characters RIGHT at the end of the book. And not just your token misunderstanding before the hero and heroine got together. But BIG, life changing kind of hits. And the book did resolve and give me the happily-ever-after I'd been hoping for, but can I be honest? By the end I was kind of out of breath. I felt like the pacing at the end had gotten really rushed. I thought about it for the next few hours and even days, and I stuck with my first impression. I think, at the end, the pacing was off.

The nice thing is, as a writer I do understand. I starting thing about what the editing process must have been like and I realized that this author didn't really have anything that could have been cut earlier in the book that would have given the extra wordcount to lengthen the ending a little. So maybe that's why it was rushed. Who knows. It was still a fabulous book. If I'd been judging it for any kind of contest, I'd have given it a 9.8, maybe a 9.9. THAT is how good it was (and I tend to be kind of critical!). But if the pacing had felt right at the end? It would have been a perfect 10. Perfect.

Now, pacing is also subjective, okay? So not everyone has the same kind of preferences. My book comes out in three months, and you know what? Probably, someone out there is going to think my pacing could have been better. Maybe in ten years I'll re-read it and agree with them. But right now? I love how the pacing is and wouldn't change a thing. So, we do all have differences of opinion and that's okay. It's art. Art is subjective....

To a degree. If you have a romance and your characters are apart until your last sentence (not a series or anything, just a stand alone book) and there's no hint they're in love up until that point, no hints at their happily ever after, your pacing is probably off. If you have a classic romance and your characters have two-hundred pages of happily ever after with no conflict at all? Your pacing is off.

Now look at your manuscript. Let's talk about it in chapters, okay? What are your personal pacing preferences for your book? How many chapters of happily-ever-after do your characters get (if it's a romance or that's applicable in some way)? How many chapters are left in the book when your character has his/her black moment and all hope is totally lost? I'd love to hear some of y'alls! And don't worry--this one's different for everybody. I've heard people speak on this at writing conferences, and what they say helps, but seriously, if there were ever a rule that was "more like a guideline" (slight Pirates of the Caribbean paraphrase there for you...), it's pacing.

What are you thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Personally, my pacing generally has to do with rotatations of action, romance, and character-building or close-knit conversations. I go through all three, then start over again. Generally, my books will start with extreme action, then slow down into some character development, then start the action/romance/depth I mentioned before hand. The book almost always comes to a close with some major climax, then tapers off into some last-minute sentimentalism.

    It seems to work - a lot of people have told me that they love that about my books. But, then, God is good - He probably just allows people to like it despite of my faltering efforts! :)