Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Pace - Sally Nicholls

Pace is, quite simply, a pain in the arse.
Pace is how fast a story is being told. It's annoying because it's not easy to explain WHY something is paced too fast or two slow. The only way to figure it out, as far as I can tell, is to read a lot of books, then print out your manuscript and read it like a book, noting down the places where the story is getting boring (pace too slow) or you blink at half a year's gone by (pace too fast).
With my last book, 'Season of Secrets', my pace was mostly too slow - mainly because I set myself targets like 'write a thousand words in a day', with the result that I frantically wrote a load of rubbish to meet my deadline. Editing then mainly became cutting, which is a wonderful process - my target then became 'delete a thousand words a day', which is frankly easier and gives one a wonderful sense of freedom as the story emerges from all the dross, shiny and streamlined. I've deleted about 20,000 words from both of my first two books, neither of which is longer than 37,000 words in total.
With the latest book, however I set myself the target of finishing sections - write two sections per week, I told myself. This has resulted in lots of ridiculously short sections, which are paced far too quickly.
I now just need to add stuff - which I have no idea how to do. Aargh! Help would be gratefully received!


Brian Keaney said...

I know exactly how you feel. Deleting is gloriously easy but adding - aargh!

Stroppy Author said...

So true - because you don't write with gaps in, so there's nowhere obvious to add things wihtout causing massive disruption. Good luck, Sally!

adele geras said...

I call this process 'thickening', like adding flour to a sauce or a soup when it's too thin. Not quite sure what I do but generally I can extend conversations, or put in a chat somewhere between two people, a scene that's extra in between two other existing scenes. Only very rarely is a thickening of descriptive passages needed. I go through the ms annotating it and saying things like 'more anguish' in the margin! I too like deleting but it doesn't happen to me often. And sometimes it's easier when deleting to get rid of an entire subplot or something from the beginning to the end of a book than fossick around deleting bits....that sometimes works.
Have fun!

Leslie Wilson said...

yes, I know, it's really difficult because I find I've written with a kind of surface tension in the narrative, and getting in through it feels extraordinarily difficult. But I do find I get there in the end. I think maybe the thing is to focus on the story rather than the form, if that makes any sense? Be OK with pulling your section apart completely and giving it a new shape. I agree with Adele about extending conversations, but also putting in some detail of observation, something that will add to the narrative or the tension, like, for example, a detail noticed by the person whose p of v it is, that actually gives more insight into their feelings at that time. That way your descriptions have narrative drive built into them, rather than being a lengthy self-indulgent excursus!

Lee said...

What's wrong with self-indulgence? Love it! And that's why I write, you know. If I want to indulge someone else, I'll bake them a chocolate cake.

Nicky said...

I tend to do this most with action scenes or high tension scenes which I always under write. I tend to think about descriptive detail ( not necessarily more description just specific vivid making stuff) emotional content and sensory detail. I tend to think of it as fattening up rather than thickenng but it is basically what Adele is talking about. What do you need to add to make the reader feel they are really there and getting what the character is getting?

Sally Nicholls said...

Thanks, guys! I shall have a go. There are too sections I'm paricularly worried about, which I'm wondering about just rewriting entirely from the start.

Lee, the problem with being self-indulgent is that I'm not just trying to tell a story, I'm trying to write the best book I possibly can. And if I publish it now looking like it does, I'll always be ashamed of it.