- Email me
- Nail Your Novel: books
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- FREE Nail Your Novel Instant Fix: 100 Tips For Fascinating Characters
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: A Companion Workbook
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Who am I?
Posts Tagged how to write a song
‘Tell me about pace,’ said one of the panellists in my video interview at John Rakestraw’s. If we hadn’t had a time limit I’d still be talking now.
A well-paced story is like an act of hypnosis. It has a travelling beat that takes control of the reader’s attention. It proceeds at just the right speed to trap the reader a little longer, urge them to turn another page.
How is it done?
With constant development and change.
You might assume pace is only a concern in fast-moving plots, such as thrillers. Not so. Every story will benefit if it is written with an awareness of pace; even a leisurely character journey.
Indeed, pace is a fundamental in most dynamic artforms – not just storytelling.
Video and music
If you’re making a video, you want to change something every 15 seconds. The change might be subtle, such as fading a colour, or panning a picture so the view reveals more. Or it might be obvious, such as switching to a different image or bringing in new music. Listen to a piece of music and you’ll hear how it’s being constantly modified. Even a simple verse/chorus/verse structure, which appears predictable, is developing. Other instruments are joining, variations are being made with the phrasing, note patterns or rhythm.
Singers do it too. When I used to take lessons, I was told that if a lyric is repeated, it must have different emphasis or emotion. (‘I get a kick out of you’ ‘I get a kick out of you’.) Listen to an actor repeat a line. The repetitions will not be the same (unless for a deliberate effect).
Law of physics
So audiences need change. This is, if you like, a physical law of any dynamic art. They need to be kept attentive while we have our wicked (or wonderful) way with them.
How can we do this in stories?
1 In a story, pace comes from change. Always be developing. In every scene. The change doesn’t have to be big. It can be tiny, such as the reader’s perception of a situation or a shift in a character’s attitude. But every scene should take the reader somewhere they didn’t expect. Scenes with no change lie flat on the page.
2 Remember the singers and actors. Look for repeated lines, emotional changes and plot events. If you repeat something, develop it or make sure it will be read differently – perhaps with new significance. (Unless you intend deliberately to keep it static.) Another type of repetition is the function of a scene – in My Memories of a Future Life, I jettisoned a scene that repeated an emotional beat I had already covered. Here’s the post that explains. This kind of repetition is hard to spot. The surest way I’ve found is by making a beat sheet, where I summarise the entire book by writing the purpose of each scene. This reveals the kind of repetition that will spoil the forward momentum. More about the beat sheet (left) in NYN1.
3 Don’t be slow but don’t rush. An ideally paced story keeps up with the reader’s need for change. Although we want to pull them along, we don’t want to overtake them. Paradoxically, if you do this, they might feel the story is slow. So when your trusted critique partners tell you a scene flags, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut material. Try writing a version where you enlarge a moment, explore it more. See if that does the trick.
4 Use variety. Readers get numbed if too many successive scenes have the same tone (except at the climax). Vary the feel of each scene. Give readers a breather after major revelations. Give them a lighter moment or regroup around the campfire after you’ve put them through the wringer. Another way to use variety is to cut away to a subplot. The contrast will intensify the impact of all your scenes. Again, the beat sheet will show you this at a glance.
5 Become aware of your prose. Pace can come from your style. Not from show-off words or sparkling metaphors, but at a basic, moment-by-moment level. Virginia Woolf said ‘style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm’. What might she mean? I like to think of it as the fall of syllables in a sentence. This is independent of length; a well-paced long sentence is as easy to read as a short one. But often we use more syllables than an idea needs; we cram in adjectives, adverbs and similes when we’d be better to choose a more vivid verb. (‘She shouted in a harsh voice’ or ‘she roared’.) A smooth sentence, though, makes every syllable count and uses them with grace. It has a quality of control, which keeps the reader in surrender to the writer’s mind.
Pace keeps a story alive and restless, makes it grow in the reader’s mind. It sets up an imbalance, a need for resolution. When this stops, you let the audience go. And the proper place for that is …
thanks for the runner pic Jacobo Garcia
Well that’s my take on pace. What’s yours? Let’s discuss!
actors, authors, Cole Porter, deepen your story, fiction, how to make a video, how to pace a novel, how to write a book, how to write a novel, how to write a song, I get a kick out of you, John Rakestraw, literature, making a video, My Memories of a Future Life, pace, pacing, prose, prose style, publishing, repetition, Rewriting, rhythm, rhythm in prose, Roz Morris, singers, song structure, story structure, structure, style, Virginia Woolf, vocalists, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
‘Writers and songwriters can create memorable shared works’ – The Undercover Soundtrack inside out: SJ Tucker
This weekend I’m celebrating the anniversary of the launch of My Memories of a Future Life. And since the story explores reincarnation in reverse, I thought I’d turn the Undercover Soundtrack inside out and talk to musicians who have been inspired by novels.
Today I’m hosting SJ Tucker, who has a long-running collaboration with award-winning fantasy novelist Catherynne M Valente. Their partnership goes way beyond a song for a book trailer; Cat writes song hints into her manuscripts for Sooj to find, and they tour together with their very own multimedia song and story circus. Sooj is talking about all that – and how she turns a novel into songs – today on the Red Blog.
authors, Catherynne M Valente, comedy, cross-creativity, cross-media, fantasy novelist, how to write a novel, how to write a song, how to write an album from a book, how to write an album from a novel, inspiration, literature, music and stories, music and writing, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, publishing, SJ Tucker, The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing and music, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing songs, writing to music
- Devils for detail – dictionaries, grammar and editing considerations for authors. Ep 31 FREE podcast for writers May 26, 2020
- How to master back story – professional course at Jane Friedman May 25, 2020
- Your first pages – 5 more novel openings critiqued by a literary agent (and me!) at @Litopia May 24, 2020
- Live critique – Peter writes a story. Ep 30 FREE podcast for writers May 20, 2020
- Does a story’s protagonist have to be likable? We discuss! Ep 29 FREE podcast for writers May 19, 2020
- How to run – or join – an authors’ collective. Ep 28 FREE podcast for writers feat @triskelebooks May 17, 2020
- From fragments we build a book – Ep 27 FREE podcast course for writers May 14, 2020