Thursday, April 25, 2013

PPWC13: Pacing, Fast as a Snail

This workshop was led by Deb Courtney.  Although these are my notes, the workshop content is attributed to Deb and the participants who offered input and discussion.

What do editors, agents, and beta readers mean when they say "The Pacing is Off?"
- There is too much irrelevant information.
- You haven't ramped up the conflict enough - readers aren't interested.
- The description is too heavy - too many adjectives and adverbs.
- Your action scenes feel too slow.
- There is too much or too little exposition.

When the "Pacing is Off," one of three things might be the culprit:
(1) The story didn't start in the right place.  Solution: change the scene.
(2) There is too much extraneous information.  Solution: tighten prose.
(3) An actual pacing problem.  Solution: see below. 

"Pacing" = the speed at which your novel or parts of your novel move.

Generally speaking, fight scenes should be fast-paced and romance scenes should be slow-paced.   If your pacing is off, readers will have trouble connecting with your story and your characters.  For example, if a romance scene is written with a fast pacing and uses a lot of short choppy sentences, the readers are not going to come away with the emotive quality the romance scene requires - they will feel uneasy. 

How to Spot Pacing Problems:
(1) Look at the conventions of your genre.
(2) Review your overall story arc.
(3) Comb through your manuscript, scene by scene.
(4) Review the lists below to ensure you are using the appropriate technique to obtain the desired pacing.

Move Scenes Faster:
  • action
  • reduce narrative
  • eliminate inner thoughts and reflection
  • pull in tight (as in a camera angle)
  • stick to one POV
  • use short sentences and words
  • eliminate adverbs
  • minimize dialog to only what is crucial, absolutely necessary
  • use vocab with auditory resonance - hard consonants 
  • short paragraphs
  • what you let sit as a standalone phrase, sentence.
  • condensation of concepts, ideas
  • don't list - this is bad for escalation of tension
Move Scenes Slower:
  • Reflect and describe
  • eliminate action
  • pull out wide - have characters things
  • lengthen sentences and words; be holder with complex sentences
  • use some adverbs and adjectives (but not too many, remember what Stephen King says: "The road to hell is paved in adverbs.")
  • use dialog more loosely (but never really loosely; dialog must fulfill its role properly)
Good Examples:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
"Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway

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