Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Timing & Pacing

One of the hardest things for a writer to figure out is how to pace a novel.  It's never "easy," but  it's easier when you're writing a start-to-finish book that takes place over a relatively short period of time - you can go from one event to the next without breaking stride.  Even in Salvation Day, though, it was tough; I had certain parts of the story that were supposed to drag, while another portion was written in such a way as to induce a sense of anxiety and near panic with its frantic pace.

It gets considerably more challenging when your story simply takes too long a time period to tell like that.  As much as I might be interested in every aspect of how a character does something, neither I nor the audience have the patience for a two million word novel that covers half a century.

That was my biggest challenge with Fight Or Flight.  The entire story evolves over the course of 73 years.  Since even the main part of the story takes "only" 25 years, I still had to pick and choose what to tell and in how much detail.  Charge in too hard, and changing the timing will disrupt the reader.  Gloss over too much and the reader will wonder what happened in the intervening time.

The balance I tried to strike dealt with picking out the key events of the tale while not getting too into the nitty gritty of any of them.  I had to accept that doing this would mean the book would be fast paced, even as large as it was.  That made character development difficult since I couldn't get too into the weeds if I wanted the story to move along.  I could only give hints of personality traits, so with the possible exception of the main character, we don't get an up close and personal view of anyone.

Even those events I picked out had to advance the larger plotline more than usual.  Going down rat holes as I've been wont to do in other books was no longer an option.  If I spent too much time on any particular battle or discovery, it risked throwing off the effect that a grand arc needed.

Of course, Fight Or Flight is in a first draft format right now, and it's very raw.  My general rule is to put something away for a while before re-reading and editing, so it's possible I could get back into it in a year and find that it either drags or goes zipping by too fast.  That could force me to start the whole project over...a daunting prospect when you consider the sheer size of this one.

I imagine this won't be the last time I encounter this challenge.  If it was, I'd wonder what happened.

No comments:

Post a Comment