Monday, April 30, 2012


What is Pacing and how do I fix it?

In nearly all of my WIPs at one point or other, or over the whole thing, readers have frowned and said the pacing was off.  But no one was able to explain how to fix it.  Changing scene length didn't work.  Shorter sentences didn't work.  What was to be done?

In my current critique group we read 3000 words or less at a time, and we meet every two weeks.  How are you supposed to keep up momentum with such small chunks over a two week interval?  I wondered.  But actually, doing that showed me exactly what was wrong with my pacing.  For me, pacing is simple.  Every scene, every 3000 word chunk, has to do two things.

1) It has to contain an event that is relevant to the plot.
2) It has to contain or continue the characters' plan for what happens next.

This is my formula for momentum.  It may not work for anyone else, but for me, one of my main problems is that I tend to write lovely scenes that dispense important information, and are inherently boring.  To keep my characters active and dynamic, I need to keep them actively thinking about the situation, let them make plans and take action, even though I know those plans will fail and their actions backfire.

Also, if nothing happens in the story for 3000 words, or if what happens is repetitive, doesn't offer something new, doesn't let something change, it's time to cut!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday #125 Images and Imagination

This Week's Topic:
What images inspire/ represent your WIP or favorite book?

So actually, I did a post quite like this a couple of weeks ago, talking about how finding images to round out the feel of the characters actually changed the story. Here. To summarize:

But actually, I quite rarely use photos of actual people for my novels.  I don't want them to be that concretely defined.  I sketch and doodle, I make maps, I work up my own cover art.  I even have a thermos which has pen & ink drawings of my characters from one novel decorating it.

Interestingly enough, the books I can't have photos for are my fantasy stories.  The one I have photos for is Sci-Fi.  But I would love to  print the photos and use them as a reference for a sketch.  Pictures of real people often crush the possibilities you need to imagine.  It may be why I hate reading books with photo-covers.  Even a perfectly realistic painting is so much better.

WWW Wednedsay

So I've been busy...
What are you currently reading?



Sara Labriola is a married woman haunted by the shattering secrets of her past—and terrified of the future. Tired of living in fear—and knowing that if she stays in her marriage she'll be killed—Sara decides to do the only thing she can: she makes herself disappear.

One afternoon, without telling a soul, she packs a single suitcase and leaves her life in Long Island behind....more

I'm reading this because I'm considering de-trunking a trilogy of Mafia novels that I started in college.  But one of the things I realized in the years since was that I was trying to write a thriller without ever having read a thriller.  I like it so far, but I'm surprised by how literary it is.  It's essentially a story of a bunch of very sad people doing terrible things because they don't know how not to do them.  But it's a beautiful exercise in character motivation.  And each time a character's POV is introduced, it's introduced at a pivotal moment - when the story starts for them.  The switching POVs and intense 1st person is very nice, and it's a lot like what I have in my files.  It's nice to know that it's a valid writing style for this sort of book.  I thought I had to pick a character and stick with her.  (Of course, when I was writing the first one, there was no way I could have handled multiple threads and switching POVs.  I was still a baby writer.  I'm pretty sure I've at least graduated into Elementary school now.)

What did you recently finish reading?

Cara M gave 5 of 5 stars to:
Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono

Cara M gave 4 of 5 stars to:
On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Hornblower in space! Lots of weapons specs and delicate politics, and the brutal type of war that you get when you're in a tin can bobbing around in space, or in a hollow log bobbing about in the water. Tons of fun though.
Cara M gave 4 of 5 stars to:
Ramage by Dudley Pope


I do love me some adventure novels, whether sci-fi or nautical, and if they are chock full of Horatio Hornblower references, that's even better.  :D

Sea of Shadow was a re-read, and it was as brilliant if not better than the last time I read it.  A member of my writing group was asking about exotic fantasy, and I thought of this, and then just had to read it again.  The translation, I think, values faithfulness over flow, but after you get used to it, it's not distracting at all.  Oddly, though I love Sea of Shadow, I've never been able to finish the next book, perhaps because I really could sympathize with Yoko, and the MC in the next book just isn't as interesting as she is.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Oh my, my pile of TBRs is towering and huge.  But whatever it is, it may not even come from that pile.  I suppose I will find out when I read it.