I once had a serious pacing problem. I was rejected at least ten million times because the pace was too slow. I info dumped, or got caught up in the words and forgot there was a story going on. I was sad. Bummed. Desperate. And like a good and eager student, I jumped back in, with those rejections in mind and I over corrected. The, I was rejected some more – this time because the story raced along too quickly, forgoing the little details that enriched a good tale. It was a very frustrating time for me. Then, I got an idea. I went to my bookshelf and pulled a book down that did extremely well in sales and was similar to my story in genre, tone, etc, something. And I reread the book looking only at pacing.
I opened a word doc or got out a notebook and pen, I can’t remember exactly, but I made headers: Chapter One….Chapter Two etc
As I read, I made notes under each chapter heading. In chapter one, for example, we met the hero, heroine, got details about the setting and enough hints about the conflict to send me hungrily into chapter two. I did the same thing for each chapter, noting major scenes, tones, where the conflicts, resolutions and new conflicts arrived, and when I began to outline my new project, I used the notes I’d taken as a guide to keep my pacing in line.
I can’t stress enough that I didn’t do this to copy the story idea. I didn’t plagiarize in any way. (Plagiarism is a HUGE buzz word/ hot topic right now and everyone jumps to that conclusion WAY too often. So Stop It.) What I suggested is you read to learn. The way we read to pick up new turns of phrase or get inspiration for a twist on something old, your favorite books are wonderful text books and quite useful for teaching us proper pacing too.
Soon, you’ll internalize the information and no longer need a guide. Remember, we always have more to learn from what we read. Think of the other ways our favorite stories can benefit our writing life and go for it.
Hi all! Today I’m guest blogging at RomCon about life, love, scars and beauty. Come by and keep me company. Learn why my newest sweet romance title, Written on Her Heart, is so dear to mine.
See you there!
Excerpt from Written on Her Heart
When Mom pulled the door open, she nearly leapt into my arms. Tears already streamed from her eyes. It’d been two years since I’d been home, but not even secrets formed halfway around the world were safe from our small town. The moment I pulled my rental onto Route 22, I became fair game for gossip and ghost spotting. When a train lumbered along the only set of tracks and held me up for nearly five minutes, I watched a dozen bystanders take notice. First of the car they didn’t know, and then they dipped their heads for a look at the driver. The lady in front of me yanked her mirror to the side to check her face, and her chin dropped when our eyes met. By the time I lifted Mama into my arms, she’d received no less than four phone calls announcing my arrival. So much for surprises.
She looked smaller and more fragile than I remembered. Maybe after two years in a battle zone everything did. Her thin palms gripped my cheeks tight, and she kept saying, “Welcome home,” until my eyes filled to match hers. Tears streamed over the skin on her cheeks, and I never wanted to leave. The most important thing I could protect was right there in my hands.
Emma sniffled and wiped tears as she finished the passage for the third time. Her tears dropped onto the ink. She flung her body backward onto her bed and exhaled. The imagery astounded her. She knew firsthand how it was to arrive home. Every car in town must be inventoried somewhere. She shook her head, picturing the train. How awful to be held back by something as mundane as a train when you’re coming home from war to see your mother.
A gush of air filled her lungs, and she bolted upright.
“Oh my Lord in Heaven, he’s from Honey Creek!” She looked around for someone to dance with. Grabbing the journal in one hand, she skimmed the words again though she’d practically memorized them already. Route 22. One set of tracks. His journal sat under her willow. “Wheeeee!” She scooped a pillow off her bed and spun until the floor tilted.
He was from Honey Creek.
I hope you’ll consider a trip to Honey Creek. It’s as close as Amazon.
Thanks to the advice of my amazing editor, who happens to be a world class author as well, I haven’t slept in days. One of my fall releases is titled, Deceived. It’s a YA suspense and there’s a very evil serial killer monster guy. In all the revisions and varied versions of this manuscript I’ve written over the years, this change was the one that made me afraid to fall asleep. Thank you, Jackie. I scared myself silly.
I came up with this story concept as my second idea ever for a novel. I had no writing chops. Everything else I wrote that year and the year after was put in the junk bin. Good for practice, bad for reading. But this idea made my brain itch. Ever had one of those? The killer got under my skin and no matter how many romances and mysteries and fun things I wrote, this guy kept taunting me inside my head in a sing- songy whisper voice…“You left her alone again. I’m going to find her. You can’t stop me.”
My brain works like that. And I worked the story some more. Between every new manuscript, I went back to this one, checking on my heroine, reassuring myself she’s okay. I, on the other hand, may have an undiagnosed form of crazy. Let’s not dwell on that. And then, the unthinkable. I signed the story with my agent and Merit Press bought it. I had a simultaneous celebration and stroke. On one hand, YEAH! My diligence paid off! It really is a good story idea! on the other hand, HOLY HOLY HOLY this lunatic will be read by other people. He’ll be loose. I will have to deal with him directly again. Crappity-crap-crap-crap.
I received my editorial letter two weeks ago with a list of ways to tighten and improve on the existing pages. Many of the suggestions were simple, super *facepalm* things. I should’ve known this or that would make it even better. But as the author, sometimes your focus is on other things. This is why betas, agents and editors are imperative to the proces. I quickly made the easy changes. Then I delved into the more complicated ones. Still, no probs. Then, I realized, I’d left the killer for last. According to the revision letter, I needed to “Take my time” and “Don’t rush” through the scenes where the killer is his killiest. <– those last words are mine not hers.
I was such a mess while writing these scenes, that my husband arrived home from work one day, opened our door and I screamed. Then he jumped. It’s not often you walk into your home and someone screams. (Though possibly it happens more often here than other places). That night I had a nightmare. This is the gist of it.
I was on twitter talking about the killer situation and getting advise, bouncing ideas off my friends and followers (THIS is true and it was also in my dream) and in the dream, a serial killer noticed me tweeting these things. I got his very unwanted attention and he engaged me. Then he came for me. He threw me in a room with two-way glass and proceeded to show me how serial killers operate from the other side of the glass. I saw horrible things I was powerless to stop and knew all the time I was next. It was awful.
But I guess that’s what happens when the girl who’s literally afraid of her own shadow writes a serial killer story. WHat about you guys? Ever written something that scared you later?
I love mystery and danger. I read cozies and write them and my fall YA suspense has some scenes that kept me from getting proper sleep for weeks. I love it! And I have SO many questions. Sooooo many questions. I need someplace to get information on police protocols and procedures. Who does what and when? And what if *this* happens? Does that change the process? My local police department has politely asked me to stop calling with my inquiries, so I had to think outside the box. Where else could I get the answers? I tried breaking some traffic laws in the hopes of getting pulled over, then I could ask the nice officer writing my ticket what happens after a video showing a murder is broadcast live and goes viral. Who do they call in to track the IP? IT Consultants? The FBI? The Marines? Castle? WHO? But while I worked out all the questions in my head, I ended up driving 30MPH instead of speeding my way to a ticket. Super Major Julie Fail.
“Killer Nashville’s 2013 conference will have over 60 sessions, 2 guests of honor, agent / editor / publisher roundtables, 7 distinct session tracks (general writing, genre specific writing, publishing, publicity & promotion, forensics, screenwriting, sessions for fans), 12 breakout sessions for intense study, special sessions, manuscript critiques (fiction, nonfiction, short story, screenplay, marketing, query), realistic mock crime scene for you to solve, networking with bestselling authors, agents, editors, publishers, attorneys, publicists, representatives from law and emergency services, mystery bingo, authors’ bar, wine tasting event, two cocktail receptions, guest of honor dinner and awards program, prizes, free giveaways, free book signings, and more!” <– copied from the Killer Nashville site at he link above
WHAT? KILLER NASHVILLE? A whole conference on killing? AND writing? Someone, please take me to there! Wine tasting? Forensics? YESS!!
“One of Killer Nashville’s most popular annual features is a crime scene staged by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent. The crime scene is a compilation of real crime scenes the TBI has encountered. Attendees gather clues and try to solve the case. The person who best interprets the clues and solves the murder wins the Crime Scene Detective Award which is a free registration to the next year’s conference. If you’ve ever wanted to put on your sleuthing hat and try your hand at crime-solving, Killer Nashville can give you that chance.” <– copied from the Killer Nashville site at he link above
Well, guess who’s going to Nashville, people????? THIS GIRL! I’m so excited. I have pages and pages of questions and lists of things I want pictures of and NEED TO KNOW. I can’t wait to talk with the TBI. I think my next murder will be in Tennessee! Boom!
I love Justin Timberlake. He cracks me up all the time and this makes me laugh. For the rest of my life, when I’m feeling blah, I’m watching this video. I even dance with him. My kids are horrified. My husband joins in. Unmarried ladies, find a guy who’ll be silly with you even if you want to dress up like tofu because laughter is the best everything.