Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tuning Your Ears--First Step in Developing the Right Pacing for Your Book

My first visit to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, I saw Puccini’s Turandot. There wasn’t a moment during Puccini’s music or story when my attention wandered.

That’s exactly what good pacing does. It doesn’t let the reader wander.

Start tuning your writer’s ears by re-reading books you love. Pick three in the genre of your book.

● To study how the writers deliver information—where the pacing is fast, where it is slow—hold two pages up, squint at them, and see the balance of white space to text. Conversation sections have more white space, description has less. So conversation (dialogue) usually equals faster pace, and description (summary) equals slower pace.

● Study the pacing at the end of a suspenseful or exciting chapter in one of these favorite books. How short are the sentences? Are the verbs particularly vivid?

● How does the writer transition to the next chapter’s opening paragraph? Is there a change in pace (usually, there is—so the reader can take a breath)?

● Read two pages aloud. What rhythm do you perceive? Is it fast or slow? Where does it vary?

● Look at the internal parts of the writing—what is being revealed by the author when the pacing is slow? Is it an emotional moment where the author might want us to linger? When the pacing is fast, is an event happening that’s very tense? Is there a slower-paced section later in the chapter, where the meaning of the event is presented?

● Practice writing fast-paced scenes to fast-paced music, slow scenes to dreamy music. How does your understanding of pace change as your writing changes?