There’s a lot to be said about developing pacing in a story. Far more than I’ll attempt to deal with today. I just want to talk about a couple of things. So first, what about pacing? Why is it important?

It’s the momentum and progress of your story. You want to keep the excitement going, keep readers wanting to turn pages, draw out tension and ratchet it up, and build a riveting tale. Pacing is the speed at which you reveal things, have action, and move through scenes. Some books are “nonstop thrill rides.” That means that there’s something happening all the time and most of the time it’s scary or unnerving. Then there are stories that are more introspective and slower builds. The things that happen are lower key and not as dramatic or life-threatening, and yet if you care about those characters and what they’re going through, you’re […]

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Creative Intersections: Pacing and Plotting

This week I return to my series of posts on Creative intersections. Thus far, I have discussed point of view and worldbuilding, plot and character development, and worldbuilding and plot. Today, I am going to address plotting once again, and combine it with a discussion of pacing.

In my opinion, pacing is one of the most difficult elements of storytelling to master. We all have read books that seem to drag at certain times or that become so frenetic that they are almost impossible to read. And yet, I would never suggest that you try to make your pace consistent throughout an entire novel; to my mind, novels, like great pieces of music, have mixed dynamics. There are slower passages and fast ones, periods where everything is loud and exciting, and periods of calm, during which your readers have a chance to catch their collective breath. The key is, how […]

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Turnabout is Fair Play: Your Turn to Critique MY Work

I’m taking a break this week from the Creative Intersections posts that I’ve been working on. It is just a break — I’m enjoying writing them, and the response to them has been positive, so I fully intend to continue the series on and off throughout the year. But there are other things I would like to do with my time here at MW, and today I introduce another one of them.

We — my fellow writers and I — often post about some aspect of writing or another, and then ask you, our readers, to share something of yours with the rest of us. We then offer a quick critique of what you’ve done that (we hope) will prove helpful as you move forward with your WIP. Well, today I would like to post the opening graphs of my current WIP along with a brief description of what I […]

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On Pacing

I’ve been working a lot on pacing lately.

No, not the pacing I’ve been doing as I walk back and forth across my office, worrying about the August 28 release of my alter-ego’s first novel, Darkbeast. That’ll take care of itself, and I’m already doing everything I can to get the word out, all in good time. (End of self-serving reminder to this long-suffering crowd 🙂 )

The pacing I’ve been working on is about the endings of novels.

I’m actually a little bit surprised. In my earliest work, I focused on the pacing of beginnings, on getting the reader into my story as quickly as possible and keeping him/her there with the shrewd sharing of information.

I’ve spent a lot of my career working on middles, learning how to carry the story through those challenging core chapters, the ones where the plot wants to wander, and the characters want […]

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Guest Post: Rachel Aaron on Creating Better Flaming Trees

Hey everyone. Today I’m pleased to welcome to Magical Words a guest star and good friend of mine, Rachel Aaron. I had a clever little introduction planned for her, but then she sent me her post and I discovered she took care of introducing herself. (Very efficient, that Rachel) So without further ado, I’ll turn this post over to her.

My name is Rachel Aaron, and I’m the author of The Legend of Eli Monpress, an adventure fantasy series about a charming wizard thief and the trouble he gets himself into, published by Orbit Books. You might also know me as that lady who took her writing from 2,000 words a day to 10,000 words a day. This month, my first first three books are being re-released in a lovely (and fantastically priced) omnibus edition, so I begged Kalayna to let me come over here and make a […]

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On Writing: Transitions and Chapter Breaks

I have been wanting to post about transitions for ages now, and I haven’t been sure how to approach the subject. Faith has posted about them before — a pair of posts that you can read here and here — and she did a masterful job of talking about using prose to smooth us through those moments mid-chapter when we need to relocate a character or show the passage of time in a way that does not upset the flow of narrative and that does not rely on clunky crutches. What I want to talk about is a little different: Today we’re going to focus on chapter breaks and how to make the most of them.

Let me start with a definition: A transition in a book or story is pretty much any passage or device that bridges moments of discontinuity in our writing. Changes in time, changes in setting, […]

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Basics of Writing, part X: Pacing Your Novel Musically

How many of you have ever seen the movie The Fugitive? My wife and I first saw it in the theater many years back, and it quickly became one of our favorites. The opening sequence is particularly stunning — the way the screenwriters (Jeb Stuart and David Twohy) and director (Andrew Davis) managed to fill in the back story and set a breakneck pace for the movie in the span of just minutes. I remember watching the scene with the train wreck — breathless, my pulse pounding — and commenting to my wife “They’re not even done with the credits yet!” If you’ve never seen it, you should — amazing stuff. The movie never flags; the pace is unrelenting, and the result is exhilarating.

That said, I would argue that while this storytelling approach works terrifically well for a movie, it is less effective in a novel. Pacing a movie […]

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