Tag Archives: pacing

Why? For every book?

Some people turn on the spigot and words pour out.  They can reach over 100,000 words, then have to cut.

Not me.  My words are stingy, little boogers that make me work for every single one of them.

As always, for every book I write, when I reach the near end of the second middle (near 54,000 words), I look at my plot points and panic.  I just know I don’t have enough ideas and twists to reach 70,000+ words.  I think that EVERY time.  And guess where I am in Jazzi book 5 now?  Yup.  Almost 54,000 words.  And I’m worried.

I have more plot points, mind you.  More ideas.  More suspects and questions and clues.  But at this point, my writing momentum starts to fizzle.  I always start out strong.  The first fourth of every book is an adventure, introducing new characters, new subplots, a new murder to solve.  And then the middle muddle starts, but my middles are sort of divided in half.  The second fourth of the overall book leads to a new turning point.  And often–sadly–since I write mysteries, I end up with a second dead body at the middle of the book–a victim who changes the direction of the story, makes my protagonist rethink her original opinions.  It’s the third fourth of each book that slows me down.  It feels like pulling teeth to keep the momentum going, to keep interviewing one person after another and keep it interesting and keep subplots chugging along.

I’m almost to the last fourth of the story, and that’s when things start to pick up, when my story gathers speed and clues start coming together.  I’m almost there.  I can feel it.  And then the days of sitting fanny in chair and plodding and sweating will pay off.  By next Monday, I’ll be ready for my fingers to fly over the keyboard again.  Until then, well . . . I have a little more to go.

Wherever you are in your work, keep at it, and happy writing!

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Fast and Fun, then Slower and Satisfying (and I’m talking about writing)

First of all, I wanted to share that my daughter Holly drove up from Indianapolis on May 10th to get on Allegiant with us to fly to St Pete’s.  That’s why I was missing in action on social media.  We went to visit my second daughter and her husband.  It’s been a while since HH and I have gone to Florida to visit Robyn.  She came up a couple of times to see us last year, and the year before that, I spent the spring recuperating from having my gall bladder out.  The year before that, Robyn flew up to be in a best friend’s wedding and could hardly get any more vacation time from work, so we made the most of her visit home.

This year, it was fun to fly to see her and Scott and see how they redid their kitchen.  It’s gorgeous now–white cupboards, butcher board counter tops, and a granite island top.  We made it a short stay, leaving on the 15th.  Holly’s a nurse and had to get back to the hospital, but we had a great time.

Robyn and Scott took us sightseeing, and we spent time in their pool cooling off.  Holly sent me our mother-daughters picture, so I could prove that we had a good time.Holly, Robyn, and me in Robyn's pool

And here’s HH and me waiting for a table at a beach side restaurant:

John and I waiting for a table in Florida

But vacation’s over now, and it’s back to hitting the keys.  I’ve decided to pound out Muddy River Three as fast as I can, and then spend a week outlining my Jazzi 5 novel before I start work on that.

Muddy River books are fast and fun to write.  They remind me of my old Babet and Prosper urban fantasies.  There’s enough action that the words almost fly onto the pages.  Every book is work of one kind or another, but these are shorter and faster without the intricacies that go into a Jazzi book.

Jazzi novels, on the other hand, take months to write.  The plot moves along at a slower pace and there are more characters and subplots, more twists and turns.  And I love them every bit as much.

In my mind, I compare them to the seasons.  I love all four of them, but spring and autumn feel shorter–like my supernatural stories–and I’m always trying to enjoy them before they flit away.  Summer and winter linger longer and bring a whole different rhythm and unique challenges–like my Jazzi novels.

For now, I’m in fast and furious work mode.  By the time July rolls around with the dog days of summer, I should be ready to slow down and pace myself for the long marathon of Jazzi 5.  And talking about the dog days of summer, Kensington designed a meme for The Body in the Wetlands that they’re placing in pet magazines in June.  Here’s the link:  Modern Dog-12 pg-Summer 2019.   I think it’s pretty cute!

With all of the bad weather people have been pummeled with lately, I hope the skies soon turn sunny for you and the temperatures are warm and wonderful.  And happy writing!

Finding Balance

I’m a Libra–the sign of the scales, so I thought my life came with some automatic balance.  Come to find out, one of my favorite astrologers explained that being a Libra meant I was constantly SEARCHING for balance.  A whole different thing entirely.  And after I thought about it, aren’t most people striving for balance, too?

The old saying “Too much work and no fun make Jack a dull boy” could apply to too much of anything.   I read a thread on twitter recently where Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost (both New Times bestselling authors) worked so many hours writing their books that Jeaniene Frost ended up in the hospital and both suffered from too much stress and felt everything else in their lives got neglected.  What were they missing?  Balance.

Now, I’d love to be a bestselling author, but not enough to ONLY write.  I like seeing my husband, kids, and grandkids.  I like having family and friends over for suppers.  I enjoy cooking and gardening.  I’m not very exciting, but I’m happy.  Of course, if all I did was play, I’d feel out of sync, too.  I like checking off goals when I finish them.  They give me a sense of accomplishment.  Too much down time, and I get antsy.

As a writer, I strive for balance in my books, too.  I recently finished reading Maria V. Snyder’s POISON STUDY.  I really liked it and highly recommend it, but the book had so much action, with the heroine under constant attack from enemies on all sides, that it felt like too much of a good thing.  For me, the book’s rhythm began to feel repetitive.  She created wonderful characters, and I’d have liked to spend a little more time with them.  Valek, especially, was fascinating.  So were many of the minor characters.  On the other hand, though, I’ve read books where action would be welcome.  It feels like nothing is happening, page after page.  No character development.  No clues to add up.  The pacing’s so slow, the story barely moves forward.

I also recently finished reading Cee Cee James’s cozy mystery CHERRY PIE OR DIE.  I loved the characters, the interaction between them, and the clues sprinkled here and there that teased me to solve the murder.  The pacing took its time, taunting me with tidbits of information and red herrings, like cozies do.  And that’s one of the things I liked about the book.

Great books create a balance between action, dialogue, setting, character development, and building momentum through pacing and tension.  Not many of us get every scene, every page right.  And not all of us can even agree on what’s good and what’s not.  What excites me can make another reader close the book and toss it aside.  But for whatever you’re working on now, I hope you find a good balance.  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

Rules can be broken

I’m almost to page 400 in John Grisham’s SYCAMORE ROW.  I’d probably have it finished by now if I hadn’t lost time to my troublesome stomach, but I have to admit, I needed a kick in the pants to pick the book up to read every night.  It’s good.  But I’m not used to Grisham’s style of writing, and after all the pages I’ve read, the book still feels like set-up to me.  Everything’s interesting.  The characters are great, but there’s still no crunch time, no ticking clock, and I’m getting the feeling that’s not going to happen.

The truth is, I’m so used to genre writing, his style feels alien to me.  He does a lot of the things that my writers’ group tells people NOT to do, but it works.  For him.

  1.  Show don’t tell.  My group repeats this like a mantra.  Showing pulls a reader into a story, makes him feel part of it.   Grisham sets a scene–like Jake walking into the coffee shop where everyone gathers to learn the latest news and gossip–and TELLS us what’s happening.   I’ve never been bothered by telling as much as some writers.  Author intrusion?  Eh, it works once in a while.  Jenna Bennett uses it here and there, and it adds an intimacy to her stories, like she’s talking just to you, the reader.  It’s efficient, too.  Showing takes space.  You have to let a scene play out to make a point.  Telling…well, you just say what you want the reader to know.  It creates more distance between the reader and the story, but it gives the reader a quick feeling of everything important in fewer words.  Still, all in all, most writers try to avoid it.  We try to show instead of tell.
  2. POV.  My groups’ view is that there’s singular POV or multiple POV, and you don’t mix more than one POV in a scene.  You wait to jump from one person’s head to another’s.  Grisham eliminates that worry by using a sort of omniscient POV and focusing in on one person and then moving to another.  It’s not one bit confusing.  It works.  But again, it creates more distance.  The reader’s not following one person or a few important players from place to place.  We pop from Jake’s thoughts to Lettie’s to someone’s in the coffee shop.  I don’t read enough thrillers to know if this is the norm for the genre, but it very well might be.  That’s the thing about genres.  They don’t all follow the same rules.
  3. Pacing.  My group focuses a lot on keeping the reader turning pages.   We build tension and conflict into every scene we can.  We have pinch points and turning points.  And everything keeps geting worse.  Grisham concentrates on his story and lets it unfold.  It doesn’t feel rushed.  It has more of a literary feel where the characters develop more than the plot.  I’m happy to roll with that, except I have to admit, as a genre junkie, I wish some key plot point was moving a little faster.  But that’s my own hang-up, and I know it.
  4. Would I change my advice to people who come to Scribes?  No.  Because show, don’t tell works for most writers.  So does POV and pacing.  But Grisham is talented enough to pull off his style.  His sales speak for that.  But most mere mortals have better luck following the rules.  It’s hard enough finding an audience, so why push your luck?

Whatever you write, however you write it, good luck.  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

 

 

 

Rewrites–Oh, the joy!

I’ve stepped away from my novel long enough to be able to look at my critique partners’ comments and plunge into rewrites. I’m no longer as fond of my words, my chapters, my “babies.” I’m ready to dig in and make my manuscript better.

When I’m in writing mode, I have to be passionate about my characters and story. I “hear” them and I’m excited about what they’re doing and why. Sometimes, they endear themselves to me a little too much. When I go back to edit, they weren’t always as witty as I thought they were, and the time they spent bonding together in the car gets a little long and dreary. If I were a reader, I’d be saying “When will we get there?” If a scene doesn’t have enough tension, if it doesn’t move the plot forward enough, I need to be objective and cut it. More especially for me–since I tend to write lean–I need to fill in more internal dialogue and description so that the reader can hear the same character inner thoughts that I’ve been listening to since I started the book. I try to remind myself, during edits, that readers turn pages because of tension and emotional impact. Plot’s great. It drives the story, but it’s not enough. Have I delivered? Did I make my characters believable and real? Would a reader care about them enough to follow them through a second book, if I’m writing a series? Will the readers miss them when the story’s over?

A fellow blogger whom I read has developed a novel approach to editing. The linear, from start to finish approach, isn’t enough for her anymore. She has some great tips on editing, ways to make the middle of your story stronger. https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/a-rebel-with-a-cause/. Rewrites, for me, are about honing a novel until I’ve made it as good as I know how to. It’s when I look at the foundation of the story, as well as the fine points.

Did I start with a great hook? It can be in your face or subtle, as long as it grabs you.
Did I deliver the set-up soon enough? Anymore, lots of books state the protagonist’s big problem in the first paragraph or by the end of the first page. It tells me what this book is about.
Did I create the perfect setting? Will it flavor every nuance of the story?
Did I create protagonists the reader will care about? Are the stakes high enough? Does my main character have to struggle and change to achieve his goal?
Did I people the story with minor characters who have goals/problems of their own? Are they distinct? Memorable? (I read a post on Writeonsisters.com that gave great advice on creating characters. I like it for more than just POV: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/5-tests-for-writing-multiple-povs/)
Did I add enough sub-plots to keep the story afloat? For a novel, I like to have at least two sub-plots, more if the book’s really long.
Did I add enough tension in EVERY scene to keep the pacing tight?
Were the plot points strong enough to keep the story afloat? Did I have an inciting incident, then two twists, and finally a final showdown and wrapup?

I’ve talked about all of these things on this blog before, but I’m in rewrite mode. All of the above is floating around in my head. And those are just the foundation pilings. Grammar, language, and imagery all come into play, too. That’s why rewrites take time. And that’s why they’re so wonderful. Rewrites help you tweak your tale from the basics to the “much, much better” and, if you’re lucky and persistent, topnotch.

(I’m still playing with my writing experiment on my webpage, and I’m still having fun with it:
http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/)

Writing and YA

I have three friends who write YA. I love their writing and love their stories, but I don’t know the genre that well, so invited Susan Bahr to be a guest on my blog this week. She reads and writes YA and is generous enough to share her ideas with us. I think they can apply to all good writing. Thanks, Sue!

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on Young Adult fantasy, Judy!
I’ll call this post “The Evolution of Sue, the author.”

It started almost five years ago, when I launched into writing. Oh, those days of blissful ignorance. Genre? Plot structure? Voice? I didn’t even understand POV! But I was on fire, and the words just flowed.
Flash forward about a year and picture brave little Sue prepping for her first agent pitch session at her first writer’s conference. I thought I was prepared, until one of my fellow attendees turned to me and asked, “So, what’s your story’s genre?” Gulp. She must have read the terror in my eyes, because she took pity and helped me figure something out. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Advance another year or two and now I’m batting around writing terms like an old pro. My knowledge has expanded, but one thing has remained consistent: my love for young adult fantasy. Here’s a fun fact: More adults read Young Adult fiction than young adults. A survey in 2012 put the number of adult readers at 55%. As of 2014, it’s 68%!! No more closet reading for old Sue (which is a good thing, as my eyes aren’t what they used to be)

I read YA fantasy. I write YA fantasy. And here are just three reasons why I believe every author can benefit from reading at least one YA fantasy this year.

1. Pacing. No brainer. Young people watch six second clips (Vines), communicate in 140 characters and snap-chat. Long-winded, slow-developing plots just aren’t going to cut it with this crowd. I believe, even if I wasn’t writing YA, that my stories have benefited from understanding this basic rule: Never bore your readers.
2. Strong protagonists. Most seem to be female and what’s wrong with that? These characters have an arc, a goal, and usually some kind of kick-ass quality that sets them apart. They also must grab and hold a young reader, so they need to feel well-rounded.
3. Visual action. Lots and lots of showing, not telling. Fantasy novels must, by definition, set the reader in a well-defined world and THAT requires all the senses. I love stepping into a new place with new rules. I love reading and I love writing fantasy for the world-building.

I now have three completed manuscripts, all in various stages of editing. Each one is unique. Each one is a Young Adult. If you’d like to check out my writing, you can find it at:

http://www.wattpad.com/user/vermontwriter
My author blog can be found at http://www.suebahr.com

Happy reading!
Sue

Sue’s summer reads:
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Sue and I traded blogs this week, so my usual post can be found on her blog. Hope you check it out: https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/passiveactive-voice-explained-finally/

And P.S. My 3rd Wolf’s Bane novel–Magicks Uncaged–is now available on Kindle: