Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marking Time

For me, one danger sign when writing a manuscript is if I'm waiting to get to the good part. "Can't wait to write that scene! Have to build up to it," I think. This can result in filler: boring scenes that are just marking time.

Now, this is not a danger sign for outliners. Since outliners know exactly what's going to happen and when, their build-up scenes don't just kill time or delay the inevitable. And any writer can look forward to a book's payoff--the big battle, the point where the lovers finally reunite, etc.--without having that anticipation signal danger.

But I'm not an outliner, and often when I'm holding off on "the good part," I find that the best thing I can do is go ahead and write that good part, and then figure out what's next. If two characters are going to kiss, I don't put them in scene after scene after scene where they almost kiss. There are plenty of writers who can make that kind of suspense work. Not me. I may delay the kiss a bit, but once I know they're going to kiss, I'd rather have them lock lips already--and then figure out what happens next.

I always want to get to the part I don't know. I'm the same way as a reader. Once I figure something out, I don't want to wait too long for the main character to catch up with me.

Pacing is a balancing act--not rushing, not dragging things out.


  1. I'm a pantser/plotter hybrid, so I sometimes have pacing problems too. But I tend to be a dragger-outer in first drafts, so the pacing is horrible. I usually find some really good gold nuggets that way, though, and fix the pacing in revisions.

    Thanks for sharing part of how you write! I always find it interesting when other writers share their process.

  2. Oh, I'm an outliner. And my in-between scenes drag as well--mostly because they deal with weeks or months passing at a time, or with travelling scenes. It's necessary stuff that should be engaging to read but is sooo frustrating to write and actually make engaging.

  3. Shallee--Yes, writers are lucky in that we get endless do-overs in the form of revisions! We can always fix the pacing later on.

    Laura--Have you tried playing with the transitions, or doing the literary equivalent of a jump cut? If the in-between scene drags for you, have you tried taking it out?
    I read an interview with an author--and I'm sorry I can't remember who it was--but she said she likes to jump right into each scene, making any transitions as minimal as possible.
    Anyway, just something fun to try if you feel like it; YMMV!