Tag Archives: Pacing

Writing Excuses 10.46: How Do I Make This Pretty?

The microphones again find us aboard the Independence of the Seas*, to talk about how terribly ugly this manuscript is, and what we can do to make it pretty. In this episode we drill down on line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph revisions. This stage of the revision process is where our prose gets wordsmithed. This episode runs long, touching on:

  • Punching up the pacing
  • Turning things upside down
  • Parallelisms
  • Adverbial compression,
  • The pyramid of abstraction
  • Free and direct thought
  • Replacing negative-information descriptions
  • extreme editing exercises like “one sentence per concept.”

Obviously if you want more than just the bullet points you’ll need to have a listen…

*NOTE: Registration is now open for the 2016 Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat!

This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered ashore in a volcanic caldera by Alex Jackson.

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Here’s a tough one: Make an editing pass in which you cut 10% of the words on each page.

Writing Excuses 10.34: Q&A on Pacing

We wrap up this month’s discussion of pacing with a Q&A. Here are the questions we pulled out of the virtual hat (read: Twitter) for answering during the episode:

  • What are some early indications of a pacing problem?
  • How do you chart pacing so that it remains even?
  • Can you control pacing using scene/sequel format?
  • How do you handle character progression during travel without making it choppy?
  • It feels like new authors are required to deliver breakneck pacing. Is this true?
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Plot twists are coming next month. This exercise is called “hard left.” Take a scene that is moving forward at a breakneck pace. Throw a twist at them, and don’t break scene. Force the pacing to continue in the new direction.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick, narrated by Karen White

Writing Excuses 10.32: How Do I Control the Speed of the Story?

As we said last week, we’re talking about pacing, and we’ve divided the concept into two parts. Last week we covered “sense of progress.” This week we’re talking about the passage of time. We discuss the tools we use, some of which are very mechanical (scene breaks, chapter breaks) and some of which are quite intricate, and require finesse to get right.

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Take something you’ve already written (a chapter with a few scenes would be perfect.) Change scene breaks to through-scenes. Then try moving the scene breaks around. See what happens to the pace of the story.

Seveneves: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron

Writing Excuses 10.31: How Do I Control the Reader’s Sense of Progress?

This month’s Master Class episodes focus on pacing, and we’re dividing the concept of pacing into two parts: the first is the sense of progress within the story, and the second is the sense of the passage of time. In this episode we tackle that first bit, and discuss how we communicate progress to the readers.

We talk a bit about the concept of “promises made to the reader,” which we covered in more detail during episode 10.14. You may want to refer back to that at some point.

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The Magnified Moment: write two pages in which someone gets out of bed, walks across the room, and opens the door.

Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu, narrated by Kevin T. Collins

Writing Excuses 10.25: What Makes a Scene?

What defines a scene? How do we, as writers, structure things using scenes? When does a scene begin, when does it end, and when has it gone on too long?

We each do this a little differently, and obviously the definitions and processes will vary widely across mediums. In this episode we talk about how we do this, and we make reference to Scene/Sequel format, the MICE quotient, and pacing.

 

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Look at the next few scenes you need to write, and identify their plot function, identify what your main character’s goal is. Now consider where the starting and stopping points can be placed to best serve those elements.

The Devil’s Only Friend, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne

This will be our Project-in-Depth book in August, so dive in now!

Writing Excuses 10.16: What Do I Do With All This Blank Space?

The first page is often the very hardest one to write. In this episode we talk about how to fill the space on the first few pages of your story, because those are the pages where you have to convince the reader to keep going, and the very first page is often the only chance you have to get the reader’s attention at all.

The good news is that the first words the reader reads are not going to be the first words that you write. You can find the story’s voice before you pour that voice into the those first pages.

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Write your first thirteen lines, and see how much you can fit into that space—character attitude, point-of-view, mood, genre, conflict, setting, and more.

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker, narrated by George Guidall.