I’ve been trading emails with a friend from college who is writing a novel in those precious few moments of spare time between work and sleep and all the other things that make up for a busy life.
It’s got me thinking about a lot of things that go into writing a novel, basic things and those that are harder to put a fine point on. Like pacing. The best advice is still to just get the story out. Write a messy first draft and tell the story. Tell the story. Tell the story. Come back and fix the language, heighten the scenery or play with the emotional feel of the piece later. The first draft is about getting the story out. Messing around with anything else is like putting tinsel on your Christmas tree (do people still do that?) before you string on the lights and ornaments.
Pacing is hard to teach, hard to fix. It is the flow of your story, the natural tension. The best way I can describe it is to imagine you are telling your story to a friend. I always picture my best, best friend from college days. We hung out with different people, but we met once a week for tea and gossiped for a good long time about boys we were seeing, drama with our other friends or trouble with homework. Whatever. I loved telling her stories about my life! I can still remember drinking Constant Comment tea with honey, and both of us laughing (or crying) over all the stories we traded. The stories flowed naturally when I spoke to my friend, Cherie, and that’s what I aim for in my writing.
Each chapter, especially if you are changing points of view (which I do) needs to pick up the story at a point that’s further along than where you just left off. The story needs to advance. I’m guilty of telling the same scene over from different points of view (hers, his, the villain’s). This is fun for me as a writer - - especially if the hero and heroine are falling for each other - - don’t you wish you could have known how your future spouse felt the first time you kissed? But in fiction, just as in real life, one POV is enough to reveal each plot twist. Then it’s time to move on. So, it’s important not just to resist the urge but to actually – these days – jump ahead.
Fashion is always changing and commercial fiction is, too. There is a style, at least among thrillers, of jumping forward in the plot for each change in POV. I’m reading a new release by Allison Gaylin, Into the Dark (recommended by Harlan Coben and I personally will read any book this guy blurbs), and the story not only continues its forward momentum with each shift in POV, but it jumps forward (like when you hit the FF button on the remote and use five arrows to blow past commercials on shows in the DVR). The result is a very fast pace and a fun read.
Those are my thoughts on pacing.