One of the things I find difficult as a teacher of fiction writing is breaking down the different aspects of writing a story into discrete topics. Pacing, for example, is affected (positively or negatively) by point of view choices, use of flashbacks, how compelling your characters are, balance of dialog vs. description vs. introspection vs. plot, conflict, sexual tension, character goals, scene goals, story goals… and those are just the first things that came to mind when considering pacing. So how do I explain pacing to a writer without it becoming an overwhelming flood of ideas and examples?
Fortunately, since most of my teaching is in reaction to something specific in a manuscript I can pinpoint the pacing trouble at that point in the story. Often a specific pacing problem — say, too many flashbacks — once fixed improves the pacing of the entire story, or at least throughout large chunks of the story. But this still doesn’t answer how to handle this in this blog.
It occurred to me (as I was sitting at the end of our dock overlooking a beautiful Maine lake last month) that the tag feature in this blog would allow me to focus on discrete topics — story goals, for example — and use tags to connect them to other areas of the craft of writing where they also are useful — say, pacing issues — in other posts. I can focus on short, discrete discussions of specific craft of writing tools and still fill that need to show they are interconnected with many aspects of a story. With links to other posts I can also make it easy for a reader to jump to other related posts without having to go searching.
So, with that in mind, I’m going to embark on a series of craft of writing posts where I’ve culled the specific topics from the major issues/problems I find over and over again in the critiques I do. Among those topics are (in no particular order):
- Scene goals and disasters (already in the blog here)
- Show, don’t tell
- Point of view (already in the blog here and here)
- Sequels (as in scene sequels)
- Waffle words
- Be mean to your characters
- Pacing – reader questions
- Pacing – flashbacks
- Writing emotion
- Basic story structure
- Notes from the Characters’ Union Rep (that’s me!) — also known as letting your characters be true to themselves
- Dialog — tag, you’re it…
Clearly there’s a lot of ground to cover there but if you have a particular area you struggle with in your writing, or there’s some aspect of crafting a story you don’t understand, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list of topics. I’ll even address those issues first.
I’m not committing to a schedule for these posts since that depends a lot on how busy I am on the critiquing front and with my current wip but I’ll be aiming for two per month at a minimum.