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 June, 2006


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Advanced Techniques:  Pacing

by Sandy Tritt



Pacing is a tool writers have to control the speed in which a story reads. Lush, descriptive segments slow the pace, giving the readers a breather. Rapid-fire dialogue speeds the pace, leaving the reader breathless. It is up to the writer to decide when the pace needs quickened and when it should be put in slow gear.

Perhaps the easiest way to judge is to ask questions as you read. Do you start drifting? You need action. Is the conversation or action moving too quickly? You need narrative to even out the pacing. Beware, though, not to use repetition to slow your pace. Instead, find new things to say or new things to focus on. For example, during a highly emotional scene that is moving too quickly, allow the character to study a picture on the wall or watch children playing nearby. Or allow him to remember a conversation from the past. Or focus on one of the other senses, such as the smells or sounds in the background. This can add depth and an emotional layer, as well as slowing the pace.

We can also slow the pace of a chapter or even the entire manuscript by adding more description, more exposition (background information) and more internal dialogue (character thoughts).

Likewise, to speed the pace, omit everything except for the direct action or dialogue. Ignore descriptions, ignore reactions, ignore anything other than the bare necessities.

Reading our prose aloud is perhaps the best way to judge the pace. Listen as you read, and consider if the action is happening too fast or not fast enough.

And remember, there is never one right answer. The pace of your story is just one more element that contributes to your unique writing style. Experiment, study, write. But in the end, use your own judgment.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (June, 2006).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net













The Writing Choice in Africa

by Tinashe Mushakavanhu (Zimbabwe)

I come from a low-income background; the first member of my family to go to university and engage in creative writing as a professional career and embrace the wider culture of the arts. It has been hard. Reading for an English literature degree at 18, I was meant to cleave to the English language as an Uncle Tom would, gulp as much received opinion as possible without question and above all maintain the already existing orthodox thinking, etc

After realising that I was in the process of aped into a creature I didnít understand, I decided to create my own world and my own brand of literature in my very own terms as a means of controlling and defining the environment that surrounds me. Ever since, I have been a serious fornicator with words as a writer, a poet, and a reader.

But I always want to think that the way I grew up led to my choice of becoming a writer. Writing was not a career that I chose consciously but it chose me. In Zimbabwe, and probably elsewhere in Africa, individuals who choose the writing option are suspiciously regarded as mad, insane, crazy, senseless and stupid. But once fate or divine intervention destines you to walk in a particular career path you cannot refuse. I did not refuse.

Most of my life is lived in my head. One habit I enjoy doing a lot is talking to myself. Daydreaming. Sometimes, I want to believe that the loneliness, being on my own has turned me sort of inside out and the reading has helped along. And whenever, I get angry or quarrel with people, it is just natural, that my first reaction is to write out my emotions.

Obviously, with time, I cannot remember the first book I read, but I have always been an avid reader all my life. When most adults struggled with Dambudzo Marecheraís works or with modern American verse, at 12, I could sing The House of Hunger or The Norton Poetry Anthology. Though I am not claiming any genius, I had a special way with words. But of-course, I didnít realize then that I was a victim of the power of the word in another way too, that I was going to be a writer. Reading was the only die-hard habit in my life.

As a young boy, I wanted to pursue a prestigious career in dentistry or medicine. I have a soft spot for people. But once I discovered that I lacked scientific intuition, I diversified my options to law, then accounts and God knows what. Writing surprised me, for all I know. Once I started, I felt comfortable with the whole creative process. It has not been a hard decision to make. I was changing the course of my life for good. I realised that you need to allow yourself to pursue that dream and take risks.

I think why I have grown as a writer is something out of my loneliness. This element of detachment, of isolation is reflected in my poetry and short fiction and subject of my forthcoming book, The Harare Hermit. It is a collection of 10 stories that reflect the drama of urban existence in the life of a single individual in very different and sometimes difficult situations. And sometimes I just feel I have to make statements to the world.

Though I am still young and not married, and developing as a writer, I find the despair of loneliness inspiring me. I find, I am at my most creative when I am reflecting, brooding over a potential lover, sitting at the back of the house, alone or walking in a busy street drunk with my own thoughts. And very often, I try to avoid human company, everything I do, I do for myself.

Writing is simply a slaying open of what is bothering me, a diagnosis of whatís not with me. Writing has been and will always be a cathartic process for me, to relieve myself the tensions and pressures of the life that I live. My fictional works are largely autobiographical. Everything that I write stems somewhat from my own experiences or the experiences of those around me. In order to express deep feelings, I believe one must have lived the experience or must personally have known someone who has lived a particular experience.

Writing has always held an element of intrigue and excitement for me. Even when I was reading for an English literature degree at university, I had a dream of becoming a respected writer from Zimbabwe. Many hardships and thousands words later, my dream has come true. I am a published writer. The journey to fulfilling my dream has however been painful and stretching with frustrations.

I am not ashamed though to publicly claim my role as a writer for today and the future. All writing maps the course of our lives!















Handling Time Jumps in a Novel


by Kenneth Mulholland

AuthorMe Editor, Australia


Within a novel, moving from the present into the past, or the future and back again, requires planning, and it can be achieved in many ways: dialogue of characters, change of scenes, overview, other devices such as the mention of something that is now, such as the Internet for instance, that immediately means we are somewhere in the latter part of the twentieth century or the beginning of this one. These "markers" help the reader remember the time period.

But if we were to mention the First World War, or the Zulu Wars, or the first motor cars we would have some idea where we were.

When I spent many long years writing Varlarsaga I eventually was forced to construct a time scale calendar of events so that everything worked in distance traveled, days, nights, dates, moon phases especially, (not good to have a full moon followed by a first quarter moon and then no moon at all.) I also worked, as did Tolkien, on a calendar of dates from an earlier time. I think mine was based on the early nineteen hundreds. How far can you walk in a day? How far can you ride a horse in a day? Of course the answer is always tempered by other questions such as 'uphill'? But there have to be some approximations.

So any novel with time jumps could be well served with such a 'Planner.' Mine was simply in long-hand on those old things called sheets of paper. I still have all the ancient notes. And in fact these are still better as solid pages than a PC screen.

What it actually does is give you something to look at as a quick reminder of what you have done and where all your characters are in location and time. Even now I wonder if I have done this well enough with novels I am presently writing.

Obviously all this can happen later on if you do not, as I am guilty of with my current novel, keep an inventory of people's names and who they are.

In any case, the important thing is to keep the reader aware of when and where your characters are. This will avoid confusion and strengthen your story.


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Publishing New Writers,

June, 2006 (no. 706)


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