Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How is your pacing?

Current Project: Ghost Girl

Most recent read: Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

Current read: Eldest, by Christopher Paolini

Planned next read: Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini

One of the questions I frequently ask myself as I write is, "How is the pacing?" By this I mean, am I giving the reader enough information? Too much information? Feeding out new information too quickly? Not fast enough? Is the information too oblique? Does the reader have to work at figuring out what is going to happen, or am I handfeeding them the plot?

I am a student of my environment. Whatever I see, whatever I am currently reading, I am studying. I recently finished reading, for the first time, Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. As I tore through this book, I found I was studying his pacing and feeding of information to the reader. And one thing I noticed was that each individual scene fed teasers to the reader. Each scene left me with more questions than answers, which drove me to *ahem*push my bedtime out, because who could possible sleep with all those unresolved questions?! It wasn't until you got most of the way to the end of the book that questions finally began to be answered. Until then, key relationships between the characters were hazy at best, and completely obscured at the worst (which I loved! Kept me guessing...).

Some books, you can see the entire book within the first few pages or chapter - where it will end, how relationships will evolve, who will easily get their Happily Ever After and who will have to wait for a later book in the series. When you first sit down to write a new book or story, how do you picture feeding the information to your reader? Are you going to make it easy for them, so they don't have to think too hard? Or do you plan on keeping them guessing right up until the very end?


Genene Valleau said...

Very good question about pacing, Dawn.

Since my books are basically romances with happily-ever-after endings, readers already know the ending. :) It's in the journey that pacing is key to keeping readers interested.

However, I don't really consider pacing when I first sit down to write a book. I do a lot of upfront work on how the plot and characters will develop, and the pacing naturally grows out of that.

Editing is where I fine-tune pacing--making sure the tension builds as relationships deepen, ending each scene and chapter with a strong enticement for the reader to keep turning pages, not revealing a secret until the end of the story, etc.

But I also make sure there are enough clues in the story that even "surprise" resolutions make sense, so a question isn't explained away with a "magic wand" answer or by dropping in a character that was no where else in the book.

I think pacing is going to be doubly important in the series I'm working on because there are questions that are answered in each book, but there will also be questions that aren't answered until the final book of the series.

Thanks for some thought-provoking questions on how to decide pacing for our stories!

Paty Jager said...

Nice post, Dawn.

Good pacing is a make or break for me to read a book. If I'm bored it usually means the pacing is too slow and the author is going to lose me. I'll put a book down that isn't keeping me interested. There are too many to read that I won't waste my time on one I have to make myself read.

Part of my pacing in my books are short chapters. The other is keeping all the words on the page relevant to the end result. I rarely have to cut a scene because I don't ten dot put anything in that doesn't move the story forward either in action or emotion. I guess being a person of few words is a good thing when it comes to pacing. ;)

Sarah Raplee said...

This post got me thinking, Chris. Your take on series pacing was really informative. Like Paty, I write tight, which lends itself to fast-paced stories. And like Genene, I don't worry abut pacing until after the first draft. That danged internal editor of mine won't give me any peace if I let her out of the bag!LOL