Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The year is winding down quickly, isn't it? Remember to keep paper and a pencil handy during this busy season to jot down all those ideas, even if you don't have time to write.
Traci Douglass, another of my fabulous IRWA friends, is here to offer her advice today. Welcome, Traci! Thanks for visiting!
Don’t Fall Victim To Plodding Pacing
Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, pacing is something that every writer struggles with at one point or another. As a full-time freelance writer, ghostwriter, editor, and frequent critique partner, one of the biggest issues I see in many writers’ work—both new and seasoned scribes—is pacing that drags. This is not something to necessarily tackle in the first draft of a manuscript, but it is something you will need to address later in the revision process, when the real act of writing takes place, to give your novel the best chance for success and keep readers turning pages.
So, what exactly can cause a “Plodding Pacing” and what steps can you take to correct it? Here are three common issues I see (and experience myself in my own work), the common culprits causes of said issues, and ways to fix them.
Lack of Conflict
A problem with pacing many times means there is an underlying lack of conflict within the scene. Every scene of every story, no matter the genre, must contain conflict or it will fall flat. And conflict comes down to three things: G-M-C. (Aside: If you’ve not read Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon, it is highly recommended). Distilled down, it basically means for each character in each scene you want to determine what each character wants, discover why they want said thing or outcome, then define what stands in the way of them achieving their goal. Re-read each scene of your manuscript to make sure these things are present and compelling on every page. Of course, there are different kinds of conflict as well—External (outer forces acting on protagonist), Internal (emotions and past experiences of protagonist), and in the case of the Romance Genre, Romantic Conflict (why do the H/h belong together and what keeps them apart. What’s preventing their HEA). If you can layer more than one kind of conflict in a scene and make it pull double or even triple duty, excellent. If these things are not present in the scene at all, consider cutting the scene entirely or revising to make sure the conflict is there.
Lack of Emotional Range
Characters are people too. They should have varying shades and nuances of emotion to make them believable and engaging to the reader. There are times when writers will fall into what Carina Press Editor Rhonda Helms calls “Emotional Incontinence”—basically, letting their emotions run wild all the time, every time. Though this is a tempting fantasy, it is not realistic, nor is it sustainable for the length of 300-400 pages of a novel. Would you want to spend hours on end with someone who is always angry or bouncing off the walls with excitement or the human equivalent of a drugged sloth? Me neither. The emotional range over the course of a book can be thought of as a roller coaster, both heights and valleys. It is these soaring highs and low lulls that will helps propel readers forward in the story.
Lack of Story Structure
This is not to say that there is any right way or wrong way to write. Every one of us is different and that is the beauty of this art we call writing. I have my process, you have yours. But in the end, there are certain pieces of the puzzle that must fit together in order for a story to be solid and marketable. Especially genre fiction. There are parts that readers expect in mysteries, in thrillers, in sci-fi, in fantasy, in romance. For the experienced writer, fiddling with these time-tested tropes can be fun. For those less seasoned, twisting these integral parts or leaving them out all together can spell disaster. The old adage, “One must know the rules before one can break them”, is still around for a reason. Does that mean that you are stuck using standard three act structure for every story every time? Or forever bound to The Hero’s Journey? Certainly not. What it does mean is that you better know those story structures inside and out before you have a very good reason for breaking them. Genre fiction readers are among the most loyal in the world, but they are also among the smartest. Try leaving out the HEA (or Happily For Now) at the end of your Romance sometime and watch the vile e-mails pile up in your inbox. Even the most whackadoodle story still needs some identifiable story landmarks to ground readers in your make-believe world. Readers can only suspend disbelief once they believe in the first place. Give them relatable touchstones—inciting incident, major plot points or turns into the next act, the dreaded black moment, the climax—then let the connections between these be where your creativity shines.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that writing is a process. It really is more about the journey than the destination. The best writers are the ones who never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop. Period. Except for chocolate. Or wine. Wine is good…
How do you deal with Plodding Pacing issues in your stories? Are you a pantster or a plotter? What tricks or questions do you employ to spark your muse and get your creative juices flowing?
Traci is an award-winning author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance and Urban Fantasy, including her bestselling Seven Seals Series. Her stories feature sizzling heroes full of dark humor, quick wits and major attitudes and heroines who are smart, tenacious, and always give as good as they get. She is an avid animal aficionado, unrepentant chocoholic, and more than occasional smartass.
Discover more about Traci and her books at: www.tracidouglass.net
Romance...With A Kick!