Hello, writers. Last week we talked about making time pass in a narrative. Now I’d like to talk about a related area, pacing.
Pacing a story well means spending as little time as possible over the unimportant or uninteresting parts. Tell, don’t show. Tell in as few words as possible. And if something doesn’t absolutely need to be told, skip it.
In the important scenes, of course, the rule is show, don’t tell. Give these scenes their full due. Milk them for all they’re worth.
Here’s an example of a poorly paced scene:
Hello, writers. One of the little tricks a writer has to learn is how to make time pass. In a story, that is.
An author at a retreat I attended last year made a throwaway comment in conversation: “Make slow stuff fast and fast stuff slow.” She meant for the reader, of course, not for the writer, who might have to agonize for hours or days on how to get past the dull bits.
When time is passing and nothing is happening, use as few words as possible to convey that fact. One of the Icelandic sagas contains the phrase “And then for a long time nothing happened.” Since you don’t have the luxury of a captive audience huddled around the longfire in a turf-roofed hall, you’ll want to avoid such tension-killing language.
Hello, writers. This afternoon I had the bright idea of glovelessly pulling up last year’s asparagus stalks, so I speak to you tonight with bandaged fingers. Which makes me want to be kind of brief.
In the past, we’ve talked about rules for writing— those we like, those we hate, those we think are simply untrue.
Tonight, I’d like you please to give us your own rule. Not something you’ve read or been told, but something you’ve figured out yourself through writing and/or spending time with writers.
Hello, writers. Write On! has returned now to the 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific timeslot that we had previously. I hope that will be more convenient for the West Coast folks.
I mentioned last week that I've been looking at a lot of unpublished manuscripts lately. This has got me thinking about beginnings (often all the further one gets in reading a manuscript). It seems to me that beginnings need, to a certain extent, to reflect the manuscript's genre.
Hello, writers. Write On! is returning now to the 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific timeslot that we had previously. I hope this will be more convenient for the West Coast folks.
Lately, for various reasons, I’ve been looking at a lot of unpublished manuscripts. And it has struck me that an awful lot of them begin in the same way.
They begin with the main character waking up.
Now, I’m not sure this is necessarily a bad way to begin. However, when nearly everyone begins this way, it’s hard to stand out.
Hello, writers. Sorry I got knocked offline last week. I went back later and perused people’s answers to the questions I asked and it appears that by general consensus:
1. People would rather Write On! moved back to its old timeslot of 8 pm eastern/5 pm pacific on Thursday nights.
So, starting next week, Write On! is back to 8 pm.
(Assuming this is okay with the R&BLers chiefs-of-staff.)
2. People would prefer that I go back to hosting Write On!, but they would also like to have guest hosts occasionally.
So I’ll post sign up dates for that in the future.
Hello, writers. Thank you very much to everyone who wrote stirring and informative Write On! diaries during this past fall and winter, while I was living in a house without internet access. I have a question in the comments below about where we go from here, and I hope you’ll take the time to give your thoughts.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the extent to which a novel or story is a spell, and how writers have to decide, consciously, when to sustain the spell and when to break it.
The spell, of course, is a kind of hypnosis in which the reader agrees to immerse him/herself into the world the writer has created and accept all its parameters as real. The reader’s part in this is called the suspension of disbelief; the writer’s part in it is building the spell so strongly that suspension of disbelief is possible.
(This is perhaps why being told someone else's dream is boring; we have no need to suspend disbelief. We know it’s a dream.)
Hello, writers. Last week we lost one of the greatest writers of our time, Terry Pratchett.
What can you say about a 66-year-old writer who died? That he was beautiful and brilliant? That he loved...
Well, I haven't seen anything that says it better than this.
Hello, writers. I’ve talked in the past about cutting words, and how useful a tool it can be for writers. The older I get, the more useful I find it.
I used to cut just once, on my penultimate read-through before submitting a manuscript. I usually had a goal of cutting 5,000 words, and would succeed in cutting only 2,000. I now cut several times over the writing and rewriting process— continually, in fact.
So what’s the point of cutting? It’s not just to get a shorter manuscript that fits industry specs, although that’s part of it. It’s also to make the prose cleaner and crisper, and to allow those points that you really want to shine (favorite lines, favorite character moments) to shine brighter.
Hello, writers. Six years ago today I posted a diary suggesting that if anyone on dkos had been thinking of writing a book, there was no time like New Year’s Day to start. The response sort of surprised me… it turned out a lot of people had been thinking of writing a book. And thus was Write On! born.
Currently it’s being written by a roster of brilliant hosts. (I don’t have regular internet access and won’t for the next three months at least.) If you’d like to sign up to do a Write On! diary, please respond to my comment below.
Hello, writers. So here we are at NaNoWriMo again, and the doughty writers listed below are giving it a go. All are shooting for 50k words in November unless otherwise stated.
cfk (will report on compiling the story of Jasper and Hitch)
not a lamb (will report dissertation wordcount)
That's a much longer list than we had last year, I think. Write on!
Hello, writers. Starting next week with the lovely and talented Emmet, Write On! will be hosted by a rotating roster of writers through the winter. So if you haven't done so already, please go down to the bottom of the diary and click the heart next to the “Write On” tag so that you'll always be able to find it.
(I'll post the full roster in the comments below.)
The time of posting will also be changing to 7 pm ET, 4 pm Pacific.
Still Thursdays, though.