Jan92017

Gail Carriger On Plot Versus Pace ~ Or Figuring Out Why That Book Sucks

Pace is an interesting concept for readers to grasp but it’s something authors talk about all the time. It’s not the physical movement of characters through space and time within the story, nor is it the over-arching journey those characters are on (be it emotional or physical or both). That’s plot.

1. So what do you mean by pace, Miss Gail?

Pace is literally how fast readers turn the page. Pace has to do with everything from the size of the paragraphs, to sentence structure, to word choice, to when and where dialogue interrupts description. Pace involves the tone of voice in narration, introduction of new characters, encounters between characters, comedic or suspenseful moments, and revelations about feelings.

If you feel like a book is boring, or drags you down, or is work to read then either the author has a pacing issue, or you don’t like how they are handling pace. I sometimes describe such books as too chewy.

Different genres of books, and even different sub genres, tackle pace differently. Suspense has a much faster pace then a cozy mystery, for example. Contemporary romance is faster paced than historical, YA fantasy is faster than epic fantasy, and so forth. I tend to avoid epic fantasy for example because I find the pace mind numbingly slow.

A good developmental editor helps her author, first and foremost, with pacing. Usually, it’s her job to identify flaws in pacing, when reader attention drifts. A good DE may even try to determine why it’s happening. A bad one will attribute all flaws to plot.

2. Plot is still pretty darn important.

In romance, for example, the plot of the relationship is vital, from when the first kiss happens, to when each character admits to their feelings about the other (or others). And that’s because there are, indeed, elements of pacing in plotting.

You’ll hear authors sometimes refer to these key plot moments as “pulse points.” When and where a writer drops these elements, and how frequently they are deployed, dictates reader involvement and focus.

3. But still not as important as pace.

Here’s an interesting note to end on.

Did you know that when two professional authors get together to talk, they rarely tell each other is the plot of their respective novels? In fact, describing plot is a clear indication of an amateur author, or a non-writer. In some circles, it’s considered quite rude.

Why? Because plot is a whole lot less important than pace, and pace cannot be described. (That’s why this blog post is so rambly.) This is why authors tend to rely on an elevator pitch, even after decades in the game, and sitting across the table from an author friend.

{Gail’s monthly read along for January is A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer.}

PROJECT ROUND UP  

  • Secret Project SAS ~ Novel
    Status: Developmental edit (third draft).
    Contemporary m/m paranormal romance between a snarky mage and a gruff werewolf. Hella raunchy. Super dirty. Very very fun. Spin off of Marine Biology.
  • Romancing the Werewolf ~ A Supernatural Society Novella
    Status: Rough Draft Complete. On Lay Away.
    LBGTQ reunion romance featuring your favorite reluctant werewolf dandy, the return of a certain quietly efficient Beta, and some very unexpected gifts.
  • Competence (working title) ~ Custard Protocol Book 3
    Status: Outline
    Third in the Custard Protocol series featuring Primrose, Rue, and all their crazy friends.

OUT NOW

Romancing the Inventor

Romancing the Inventor: A Supernatural Society Novella

A steampunk lesbian romance featuring a maid bent on seducing a brilliant cross-dressing scientist who’s too brokenhearted to notice. Or is she?

GAIL’S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Axel Ender (Norwegian artist, 1853-1920) In Expectation

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

A world-famous photographer captured candid pictures of people reading

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Poem: How to choose a wife, Victorian Style “If you’ve seen her drink three cups of tea”

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

4 Things Real Authors Have that Amateurs Don’t

Book News:

Fan Art Alexia Soulless By Sarah Lynne Christianson

Quote of the Day:

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”
~ Oscar Wilde

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!
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Posted by Gail Carriger

One Response

  1. Jo said:

    Hmm. I’ve never really thought about pace before, but now that you mention it I can remember times within your own books when my speech would increase in velocity (I read aloud to my mother and twin sister) until it felt like a miracle that I hadn’t stumbled yet, simply because the prose demanded it. And yet other times when I’d slow, throat thick with feeling, because each word loomed. (I am of course, speaking specifically of the rapid-fire dialogue between the Maccons in the fourth chapter of Imprudence and the heartbreaking description in chapter ten of Heartless, respectively.) Bravo.

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