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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pacing a Novel and Pacing Yourself

Have you ever read a book that seemed to go nowhere and then suddenly it picked up speed and blasted off three-quarters of the way through?  Having just finished such a novel, I have been thinking about pacing.  Pacing a novel is really tricky.  I’m not an expert on it by any means.  I think most writers find it incredibly challenging.  If not done correctly and well, pacing can make a novel slow to a grinding halt or speed up to the point of distraction.

I’ve been reading a lot about pacing recently and I think the very best advice I have found was the simplest.  That advice is:  pacing means constant change.  To me, that means that each chapter in a book should be its own distinct scene with enough of its own conflict to drive the main conflict forward.  That sounds so simple and nice, but it is one of the hardest things to do well when writing.

Pacing in writing brings me to the parallel of pacing as a parent.  Pacing has been on my mind since my youngest has recently decided at 16 months that she no longer will take naps during the day.  I will surely miss those four hours during the day to write!  So, I have to learn to pace myself differently now and be willing to alter my writing schedule to accept the constant change that youngsters require.  One thing parenthood has taught me is that, like it or not, change is the only constant.  So, I’m getting there with the pacing as a parent thing. 

Pacing a day with a small child is a lot like pacing a novel.  You don’t want to use all your great stuff early in the day, then you’ll be left with nothing at the end, you’ll be exhausted and children are the toughest critics when you’ve run out of tricks.

What are your thoughts on pacing?  When do you know you’ve done it well and when do you know it's not working?

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