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Advanced Techniques: Pacing
by Sandy Tritt
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.
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.
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.
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
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
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Critiques by Sandy
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
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
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
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
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
The Writing Choice in Africa
by Tinashe Mushakavanhu
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
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
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
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