Blog & Show Notes

Hello and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I'm your host, Sayword B. Eller, novelist, short story writer, and podcaster. Today I want to talk a little bit about first drafts, more specifically why we shouldn't expect gold the first time we write "the end".

First, though, I want to update you on my writing life because that's what I do here, right? At the end of August I received a rejection letter from The Sun for my short story The Snowbank. I love this story so much, but am having a very difficult time placing it. I'll be submitting it to a few more publications. Hopefully one of those submissions will be a yes. In case you haven't realized it yet, writing equals a whole lot of no's and very few yes's. Adding to that rejection, I also received a rejection for my novel, Catching Fireflies, from one of my dream agents. I still haven't heard back from the agent that requested the revise and resubmit, but I'm hoping to hear back before January 2021. If I don't hear back by then I'll just assume it’s a no. 7 months is long enough. I did see a horrible tweet the other day where a woman just received a rejection for her manuscript. She submitted to this agency 3 years ago. Here’s a little tip to agents, if it's been 3 years you can assume that we've moved on.

Courtney Maum says that your book isn't really ready to go until you've gone through around 4 drafts and I've found, at least for me, that this is 100% true. Take my most recently completed novel for example. When I first completed it in November of 2018 I had a word count of 58,000 words. I also had a very shallow character and not a lot of what I needed to make a compelling story. I had a sexual abuse survivor who had tried to commit suicide, failed, and returned home to live with her mother. I had a dysfunctional relationship between her and her mother and a too-perfect one between the MC and her sister, despite the fact that she abandoned her little sister a decade ago to vanish into the night. What little sister isn't going to be harboring some bad feelings about that?

Now, with me I tend to work through a second draft very quickly. The real work, aside from writing the damn thing in the first place, comes when I get to draft three. That's when I really start to consider the motivations of my characters, what situations I can introduce to up the conflict, and how much deeper I should go with each character. Here's the thing; with each draft I added 8 - 10,000 words because I was going deeper into the story and the characters and the messes they kept creating for themselves. Finally, at the beginning of draft four I needed 14,000 more words to get the book to industry standard so that an agent would look at it. For women's fiction the standard is 80,000 words. When I got into the draft I noticed my MC didn't have a lot of interactions with people outside of work and home, so I made it a point to add a few. I also wanted to add more of her stepfather and neighbor into the story because they didn't feel rounded out enough. When I finished that draft I had 82,000 words, and I was happy with it. The story was told.

Then an agent requested a full and suggested that I make a few more changes, so fifth draft it was! After those revisions I came out at 91,000 words and a story that I am proud to say I wrote.

Well, you ask, what about those authors who say they turned in their first draft to their editor and it was "almost perfect." Let me tell you this, I know those writers (could name them, but I won't) and that is not their first draft. They may not have twenty-five revision files sitting in their documents folder, but I can assure you they have been back over that manuscript time and time and time again. I know a couple of writers who go back and edit previous chapters at the beginning of every writing day. For example, let's say Writer Cindy wrote two chapters on Sunday. She couldn't write on Monday for whatever reason. Maybe she takes Monday's off. Anyway, when she opens the file on Tuesday to write, she goes back to those chapters written on Sunday and reads through them to make corrections or revisions before moving on to write new material. Nothing wrong with this method, but this gives the sense that they're turning in a first draft. They are not.

Also, stop comparing yourself to Writer Cindy.

I know I haven't been validated by the publishing world yet, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. However, I'm going to tell you three reasons why your first draft doesn't have to be "perfect".

  1. No draft is perfect. Period. Anne Lamott wasn't kidding when she said it's okay for a first draft to be shitty and neither am I. I'm a moderate reader. Maybe 25 books per year. I think I'm at 18 books for 2020 so far. Yes, I'm behind. My point, not even those finely polished, traditionally published books were perfect. It's time we stop striving for perfection and remind our brains that nothing is perfect - Nothing - and our first drafts are allowed to be the most imperfect of all.

  2. Your first draft is simply you telling yourself the story. Think of it as a very detailed outline. One that you can just improve upon until it's a bonafide story ready for the world.

  3. Writing is hard work.

Let me explain this last bit. I'm in an MFA program. In that program I've met a number of very "green" authors. To them I am a jaded old hag who's lost her passion for this work. When one of my classmates starts waxing poetic about the muse and how we all must dance with it, or whatever, I'm the first one to say, the muse has no place in professional writing. It's another of those myths. Have you seen The Muse with Albert Brooks and Sharon Stone? That is not writing.

Undoubtedly someone is shouting at me now, "You shut your blasphemous mouth!" But, I can't hear them so it's okay. And, if they want to wait around for some muse to whisper in their ear or sprinkle stardust on them, that's cool. Me? I'll be seated at my desk getting some words in when all I really want to do is go back to bed or play State of Decay 2.

How many times have you told someone you're a writer and they say, "Oh, I thought about writing a book!" as if it's the easiest thing in the world? Too many times for me, thank you very much. The average person really has no idea how difficult it is to be a writer. It's Hollywood's fault, for sure. They've glamorized the profession, made it seem like big advances are the norm for everyone, you're always with the same publisher, and the profits from your first book are enough to live on and buy that big mansion in the hills. That may be the norm for 1% of the writing population, but the other 99% had to take off those rose-colored specks and take a look at the harsh realities of the writing world.

  1. It's mostly Nos

  2. It costs a hell of a lot of money

  3. Most people don't get to live the "full time writer" dream life.

**Please note: As someone currently living the full time writer dream life, it isn't what it's cracked up to be.**

Writing is rewriting. We've all heard it and, if you're a professional writer, you've lived it. You know that the first draft doesn't have to be perfect because you know that writing "the end" doesn't mean you're anywhere near finished.

I was in a Facebook group a couple of weeks ago and saw a writer's post about finishing their first draft. The author said they were sending the completed draft to their editor that day and would be publishing in two weeks. My first question was, of course, how on earth will the editor get the suggested edits back, the writer complete them, the editor go over the revisions, and betas read before it is published in two weeks?

How does that even make sense?

I will admit, there are a whole lot of behaviors in the indie publishing community that don't make sense (more on that in an upcoming episode), but this publishing a first draft has vexed me for a long time. Then I realized what most of these publish-button-happy writers haven't, writing is hard work.

It took me 5 drafts to get the story right (well, right enough to submit to agents). For other writers it takes 3 and for many others take 7 or 8 or 10! But one thing I know for sure, a first draft is not ready for publishing. You are not the exception. Very, very few people are.

So let your first drafts be as shitty as they need to be. Finish it, write "the end", and have a celebratory whatever, then put it in the drawer and walk away from it for 4 to 6 weeks. Stephen King says it should take no longer than 3 months to write a novel. I think for him that may be true. For the rest of us, though, I'd say the number should be doubled.

3 months to write draft 1 (no need to stress yourself), 4 - 6 weeks rest, and the rest to edit and revise.

This method isn't conducive to rapid-release publishing, but you shouldn't be doing that anyway. More on that in a later episode.

So those are my thoughts on why your first draft doesn't have to be perfect. I know there's all this noise in the writing community where people toot their own horns. All that tooting becomes overwhelming and makes us start to question our own methods and instincts when it comes to writing. One thing I've learned in my time here in the land of writers and writing is that writers lie. That's what we do, right? We make up stories to entertain readers. We also make up stories to hide what we perceive as our shortcomings. Think Nicole Kidman's character Devlin in "Just Go With It". She always felt superior to Jennifer Aniston's character Katherine, so when they bump into one another in paradise Devlin keeps up pretenses that she's in the perfect marriage and her life is perfect. Turns out, Devlin's marriage is a disaster and she's just as insecure about herself as Katherine is about herself. Writers are no different. We put up a good front:

We tweet, "Just got another rejection. YEAH!" while tears drop on our keyboards and our wounded hearts struggle to pump.

We say, "Write for you, no one else!" while desperately checking our emails in the hope that one of the million agents or publishers we've submitted to will just say yes.

And we tell other writers things like, "My first drafts don't need much editing" knowing full-well that the reason they don't need a ton of editing is because we went back through the manuscript over and over and over again to make sure that "first draft" was as close to perfect as possible.

I suppose what I'm really saying to you today is this: Don't listen to the noise. No one has a perfect first draft and you damn sure won't either. Writing takes time. A LOT Of time. It takes patience and it takes perseverance. It is a business, like any other, and there are very few fairytales. You have to put in the work to get a product that's worthy of publication, whether it's traditional or indie, and you have to really, really want it because aside from being a parent and a spouse, being a writer is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Good luck and, as they say, God speed.

That's all for this week. Next time I'll be talking about how to handle critique. Fun times, fun times!

If you enjoyed this episode please be sure to like and subscribe. I'd also be grateful if you tell your other writing friends about me!

If you'd like to know what I'm up to when I'm not talking to you about writing, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram, @saybeller. You can also find this podcast on Twitter (@WritingThingPod) and Instagram (@AboutThisWritingThing).

Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon!

Hello and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I'm your host, Sayword B. Eller, novelist, short story writer, and podcaster. Today I thought we'd chat about one of my favorite writing topics, showing and telling.

Anyone who has received a critique from me has likely read the word "Telling" in track changes. Sometimes I add a note along with it to give you ideas as to how you might fix it, especially if it's a particularly good moment that simply needs unpacking. That's another note writers may see from me often: "unpack this". I think at least one writer I work with now hates the very thought of unpacking anything!

Recently I worked with an author who said to me, "I don't know how to show." As you can imagine my first thought was, "Huh?" But then after that meanie in my head who is quick to respond took a seat, my logical mind spoke, "They know how to show, they're just intimidated by the thought of doing it." Now, this thought may or may not be true in this particular author's case. I've read more of their work and know they're capable of showing. It may just be something they don't actively think about.

The thing about showing is that you do have to think about it. A lot. Because it matters how you describe things. It isn't enough to say, "She was embarrassed." We need to see her face color, see her body curl in on itself in an effort to become smaller, and we need to see her wish she could become a part of the wallpaper, undetectable to the naked eye. Because, as Noah Lukeman says, "It is the writer's job to show us what his characters are like, not by what he says about them, or what they say about one another, but by their actions" (Lukeman 119).

Last year when I began this podcast, I did a little episode about eliminating thought verbs from your narrative (https://aboutthiswritingthing.podbean.com/e/eliminating-thought-verbs/). I'd recently read a 2013 article by Chuck Palahniuk on the topic and was working through my own narrative to do as he instructed, eliminate and unpack. Because my novel is written in first person present tense, there's quite a bit of "tell:" mixed in with the "showing", so you can imagine how much fun it was to go through and take out those telling parts that didn't serve my story.

Oh yeah, you heard me correctly, I left some telling in on purpose! This is because I'm a firm believer that sometimes telling works and the key to a good narrative is finding a balance that works.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of how to use them, let's look at what showing and telling are. One of my favorite (and spot on) quotes comes from E.L. Doctorow, "The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like." In other words, a historian is going to recant for you the events that happened, but the novelist is going to make you feel as though you were there. At least, they should.

AutoCrit defines showing as the use of "description and action to help the reader experience the story" while telling is simply stating what's happening. To "show" is to add depth to a moment. This is what I try to impress upon every writer who gets that dreaded "Telling" note from me.

When revising my own novel I had a system for implementing showing into my narrative, particularly in those places where the telling was stealing all of my narrative's umph.

  1. Take a step back and examine the scene as a moment.

  2. Consider what emotions the character(s) should be experiencing. Are they angry, devastated, overwhelmingly happy? When that question was answered I would think about how I feel in those extreme moments of feeling. How does my body feel when I'm devastated? Empty, heavy, numb. Once the feelings were isolated, I thought of how to describe them as motions and not just emotions.

  3. Write the scene with the motions of emotion (say that 10 times fast) taking center stage.

The key thing to remember when writing is you're not in this to "give your readers information. You want to give them experiences," make them feel what your character is feeling (Browne & King 16). I recently finished The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins. It's the story of a slave girl from Jamaica who, under the direction of her master, does unspeakable things and then, when going to England with him, is "gifted" to another man and his wife. I was uncomfortable reading this story, uncomfortable exposed to the harshness of being a Black human in 1820s Jamaica and England. I shudder to think what would have been lost with such a powerful story had Collins merely told her readers about the experiences and not allowed us to be present when Frannie's mistress turns her out or when she is last in her former master's presence. It would've been tragic.

Think about the last book you read. The last really good book you read. What kept you reading? This is assuming you aren't one of those people who can force themselves to read something they don't like. I do not understand those readers! If you don't have me, you don't have me. What types of language did the author use, did they make use of motion? Sara Collins uses a lot of bold words that lash out at the reader, angry and hopeless.

Renni Brown and Dave King give one of the best pieces of advice to the writer seeking to show instead of tell. When in doubt R.U.E. --> Resist the Urge to Explain.

The new writer (my former self included) wants to make sure their readers "get it", that they understand exactly what's going on in the scene and how the character is feeling because they want their readers to see things exactly as they do. They haven't realized yet that reading is interpretation. Not everyone is going to see their characters the way they see them. My first night as a history student dear Dr. Stitt stood in the front of the classroom and wrote across the whiteboard "History is interpretation". When you get right down to it, I think everything is interpretation and we writers will do good to realize that.

Take the movie House of 1000 Corpses for instance. When it came out a lot of people loved that the good guy didn't win. Some people even said it was "refreshing". Personally, I don't want the bad guy to win, so when I watch a movie or read a story or book where the bad guy wins I'm lost to that writer. Bad guys win in real life, I don't want them winning in fiction as well.

So, getting back to the new writer, things will begin to come together when they realize that their readers are not the same as them. They don't think like them, they don't root for the same things they do, and they may not even like the character that the writer adores. Look at Twilight by Stephenie Meyer or Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I've heard so many people say they couldn't stand Bella and Katniss, that they hated being in their POV. Just imagine if Meyer or Collins wrote these stories without leaving room for interpretation of character or their motivations, and just think if they hadn't created compelling secondary characters!

The most important part of this new writer discussion (I keep chasing squirrels) is that the less experienced writer is compelled to tell the reader how they should feel. "She is angry" can be interpreted as the writer telling the reader, "You gotta be angry because she's mad about this." It's like when you boycott something and express to those around you the reason for your boycott and they look at you like you've flipped your lid because they love chicken and pickles! Just like family and friends, our readers may not share our views. So don't spell it out for them. Just give them the story and let them figure out how they feel about it. As Natalie Goldberg says, "Use words like a mirror to reflect the pictures" (Goldberg 76).

This isn't to say that you shouldn't use tell. Tiffany Yates Martin has an entire chapter on showing and telling in her 2020 release, Intuitive Editing. In it she says, "Show and tell often work best together to heighten the reader's emotional engagement.

Take this scene from my novel (Yes, I'm using my work as an example. No, it isn't ego.)

Oliver has kept his distance since my abandoning him out back. It bothers me that I care as much as I do. The lunch rush is a whirlwind with lines stretching around the building outside and almost to the door inside. Becca says it’s the result of two factories nearby that actually give hour lunches. I haven’t known anyone by name, but some faces are familiar. I wonder if I went to high school with them and they’re just as unsettled by my presence as I am by theirs.

There is a lot of telling in this passage. It isn't horrible. It gets the point across, but this follows a very high stress moment where my MC has had an argument with Oliver, her manager and friend. Following my 3 previous referenced points, I took at look at the passage to see how I could revise to make it stronger. This is what I came up with.

Oliver has kept his distance since my abandoning him out back. Why do I care? It’s none of his business why I don’t want to go to a party. He may be an over sharer but I’m certainly not. Yet, there’s that niggle; the little tug from somewhere inside my hardened core that urges me to go to him and make sure he’s okay. Thankfully, the lines stretching across the dining room to the front doors offers a distraction from the internal nudge that keeps trying to persuade me to be human.

“Where did all these people come from?” It is less a question and more my exasperation for how hopeless getting these people served in a timely manner seems.

“It’s the two factories just down the road.” Becca says. “They actually give hour lunches so their people take advantage.”

I haven’t known anyone by name, but some faces are familiar. It’s possible I’m taking the orders of former jocks and emo kids I went to high school with but time has robbed me of their names. From the looks on their faces they’re as unsettled by my presence as I am by theirs.

You see that I've kept some telling there, but I've also opened it up a bit more, given a deeper look into my MC and her inner struggles when it comes to Oliver. Not only that but I've included an exchange between my MC and her co worker, Becca. I did this revision after reading Chuck Palahniuk's 2013 article about eliminating thought verbs. Turns out, when you eliminate thought verbs, you cut out a lot of telling.

So how do you find the "telling" in your manuscript that you need to change? Noah Lukeman says to look for it in character introductions, in places where there is a flurry of events, places where you may have jumps in time, and in your setting descriptions, while Tiffany Yates Martin says to follow the descriptors, look for places where you sum things up that may need a more nuanced approach, and look at the descriptions of your settings and surroundings.

I'll talk more about showing and telling in episode 32. This is a topic we could seriously spend hours talking about because so many writers just don't get it, but, alas, I only have 15 - 20 minutes to talk your ear off. Until then, take a look at your manuscript. Look expressly at the areas where Lukeman and Martin say you're likely to find those trouble telling spots, then unpack the emotions in those spots. Think about how you feel those emotions and how you've witnessed others feel those emotions and stay there while you write out that part of the scene. As Natalie Goldberg says, "When you write, stay in direct connection with the senses and what you're writing about" (Goldberg 75).

That's all I have for you this time. You'll find resources for this episode on my blog at saywordbeller.com. You'll find the direct link in the description below.

If you enjoyed this episode please like and subscribe, and share me with your other writing pals. The more the merrier.

If you'd like to know what I get up to when I'm not talking about writing, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @saybeller, and you can find this podcast on Twitter (@WritingThingPod) and on Instagram (About This Writing Thing).

If you're interested in a professional critique of your work, I am taking clients. Visit my website (saywordbeller.com) for more information or send me an email sayword@saywordbeller.com to discuss.

Thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

Take care, keep writing, and I'll catch you later!

Resources:

AutoCrit Team. Showing vs. Telling. https://www.autocrit.com/editing/support/showing-vs-telling-indicators/#:~:text=In%20a%20nutshell%2C%20showing%20is,the%20reader%20what%20is%20happening.

Browne, Renni & King, Dave. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. William Morrow, 2004.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Shambhala, 2016.

Lukeman, Noah. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile. Fireside, 2000.

Martin, Tiffany Yates. Intuitive Editing: A Creative & Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing. Foxprint Ink, LLC, 2020.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Nuts and Bolts: Thought Verbs. LitReactor, August 12, 2013: https://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/nuts-and-bolts-%E2%80%9Cthought%E2%80%9D-verbs

Hello all you writerly people, and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I'm your host, Sayword B. Eller, novelist, short story writer, and podcaster.

Today I'm talking about pacing. Why? Because I like to talk about my weaknesses. How else do we get stronger, right?

First, let's talk about what pacing actually is. "Pacing is a tool that controls the speed and rhythm at which a story is told" (Carpenter 2012). In other words, it's how fast or slow you make things happen in your narrative. The pacing in my first drafts (referred to some as the zero draft) is always at lightspeed. Things happen fast and then the book is done. This is why I'm always 30k-40k words under industry standard. I guess my first draft is really my outline. My very in-depth outline. It takes me 3 - 4 drafts before I have the pacing and story just right.

Last term my professor commented on my outline that I don't have enough action in Act II of my historical fiction/thesis novel. If you look at my work through the eyes of someone who writes plot-driven narratives you will always believe that my pacing is too slow. That's because I don't write plot-driven or action-driven narratives. I focus on conflict and characters. In other words, I don't have a ton of physical action in my stories.

"Now, hold on there, missy," you might be saying. "Conflict is pacing. It drives it."

You would be right. If you were saying that. Also, don't call me missy.

With great conflict comes swifter pacing, at least for that scene. You're raising the stakes for your character, putting them in the hot seat and making them squirm, and if you're very good at it you're making your readers squirm too.

K.M. Weiland says, "writers who are in control of their pacing are writers who are in control of their stories" (Weiland 2017). If this is the case, I am not a writer who is in control of my stories. My problem… I don't seem to be very adept at pacing scenes that are high action. I'm too wordy.

Last term my class had a discussion wherein we were supposed to write two scenes and one of them needed to be fraught with conflict and high in action. Here's what I turned in:

Scene 1

The air was thick, sticking to her skin as she rushed through the trees that spread out before her. Heart pounding and air coming out in dripping gasps, Kyla dashed through the thickets, wincing when a bare foot would land on a twisting root. The naked fingers of trees just waiting to die scratched her bare arms and tried to become entangled in the long tendrils bouncing in her wake. She stopped, her head jerking left, then right. The air was pressing harder, making her gasps come out quicker. She was alone in a sea of trees. She tried to begin again, to find her way out of the succession of naked and full trees, but her legs wouldn’t move. Falling to the ground, she rolled onto her back, her hands going to her throat, and her mouth posed to scream for help, but all air was gone.

Here's what my professor said:

In this assignment, your own style has gotten in your way. What do I mean by that? I mean that you have a certain pace and sentence structure that appears to be pretty natural in your writing. I think that voice is so strong that you fall into that rhythm without even noticing.

As a result, both of these pieces are almost the same pace. Your action piece should be more disjointed. Short. Clipped. Instead, your sentences are about the same length and offer the same type of information as in the second paragraph.

Suggested rewrite: The air was thick. Her shirt stuck to her as she rushed through the thicket. Her heart pounded. Her breath became dripping gasps. One bare foot landed on a twisted root. She winced. Kept going.

She has said in 7 sentences what it took me an entire paragraph to convey. The difference between us, I think, is that she is a more experienced writer and she writes in a different genre. She doesn't like writing in the women's fiction genre and instead prefers writing book club fiction. You may think they're the same, but they aren't. Book club fiction has to appeal to a broader audience, must like commercial fiction. More on that in a later episode.

So my problem with pacing is that I slow things down too much. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I overthink everything, and because I have very little experience with anything. This is one of my greatest weaknesses as a writer and human. I've always heard we should write what we know, but the things I know through experience are very limited. I'll be working on both of those in the future.

What do I do about this little problem of mine then?

As always, I've scoured the internet and my bookshelves to find some awesome tips.

Noah Lukeman says that "Pacing and progression are the most cumulative, most far-reaching elements of writing and thus demand the greatest long-term concentration" (Lukeman 187). It's delicate and unbelievably strong all at the same time. Think dynamite.

Two things stand out to me in Lukeman's book as things that are affecting my own pacing: my stakes aren't high enough or plentiful enough and too much description. Though he's speaking specifically of telling in the narrative, I'm harkening back to what my professor said, my sentence length is too rambly. Too long. For conflict-driven scenes where the stakes are high and the action is amped up the sentences need to be short, disjointed, and constantly keep readers on their toes. We want them to be just as out of sorts as our characters.

Courtney Carpenter lists 7 literary devices that can be used to keep your pacing where it needs to be:

  1. Action - keep them active (duh), have few distractions, little description, and limited transitions.

  2. Cliff Hangers - keep your readers guessing.

  3. Dialogue - Rapid fire with reactions and descriptions kept to a minimum.

  4. Prolonged Outcomes

  5. Scene Cuts or Jump Cuts

  6. A series of incidents in rapid succession - a whirlwind!

  7. Short chapters and scenes - I used to see these all the time. One page chapters or half page chapters. They really did keep me turning pages.

Keep these scenes active and use potent verbs to keep your scene moving forward.

The really important thing is gaining the control over your story mentioned earlier by K.M. Weiland. The most disappointing thing to me, as a reader, is a big build up with no pay off. In other words, pacing that falls flat or fails to produce anything at all. Don't drag me through a narrative at warp speed and leave me with nothing. It's disappointing and frustrating.

Weiland has a few tips for both speeding up and slowing down our pacing. I guess I don't need much help slowing down, but you might, so I won't leave them out.

For speeding up:

  1. Reduce the number of characters - I usually only have 2 characters in a scene, so I'm good there.

  2. Minimize sequel scenes - these are your "follow up" scenes. A big break up followed with the equivalent of a movie montage of your character going through life aimlessly without their one true love.

  3. Add a ticking clock - A deadline your character must reach in order to avoid dreadful consequences. Think Jason Statham in Crank (those movies are pointless, BTW. Well, except for the Jason Statham parts).

  4. Raise the stakes - This is the one for me. I never feel like the stakes are high enough in my stories. Gonna keep working on that.

For slowing down:

  1. Complicate your sentence structure.

  2. Skew the scene.

  3. Add more internal narrative.

  4. Focus on descriptive details.

I'm going to be experimenting with these tips while working through my WIP. It's contemporary women's fiction, of course, but there are some highly emotional moments where the stakes will be high and I'll need the pacing to be just right. Wish me luck.

What are some of your tips for handling pacing in your own work? Send me a email or message. I'd love some additional tricks to getting my pacing just right.

That's all I've got for you this week. If you enjoyed this episode please like and share. If you haven't subscribed to my monthly email list, and you'd like to, you can visit my website and sign up to see what I'm reading, what I've got coming up, and (of course) what's happening with About This Writing Thing.

If you want to know what I'm up to between shows, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter as @saybeller or you can find this podcast on Twitter (@WritingThingPod) and Instagram (About This Writing Thing). You can also go to my website saywordbeller.com.

Next week I'll be chatting about some of my favorite literary devices. Thanks for listening. Have a great week and stay safe!

Resources

Carpenter, Courtney. 7 Tools for Pacing a Novel & Keeping Your Story Moving at the Right Pace. Writer's Digest, April 24, 2012. https://www.writersdigest.com/improve-my-writing/7-tools-for-pacing-a-novel-keeping-your-story-moving-at-the-right-pace

Kieffer, Kristen. How to Create Strong Pacing for Your Story. Well Storied, December 3, 2017. https://www.well-storied.com/blog/how-to-create-strong-pacing-for-your-story

Lukeman, Noah. The First Five Pages. Fireside, 2000.

Weiland, K.M. Learn How to Pace Your Story (and Mind-Control Your Readers) in Just 8 Steps. Writers Helping Writers, February 20, 2017 https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/8-ways-master-storys-pacing/

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