Taking a trip or writing a story
Taking a cross-country trip can make you think about moving fast or moving too slowly. As a writer, I automatically think in terms of how that relates to my writing. Last week I set out on a trip with a blog to write about pacing. And as I was traveling down a winding mountain pass, the whole idea of pacing in travel and writing are very similar.
Just as when you are starting a new story, you head out the door on your trip all excited, packed and ready to go. If you are driving, as I am, you have a map, a starting point, and an endpoint. You might have even picked out a few spots you want to see along the way. That’s kind of the way I think of writing a book. I know my beginning, perhaps my ending, but it’s that trip in the middle that takes up a lot of my planning time…. because I let the trip set its own pace.
When my sister and I decided to drive from Colorado to Seattle with extended trips to Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., we started out with Denver as the beginning and ending point, but coming back a different way than what we were going.
Pacing takes plannning
Just like some careful writers, she wanted to take the time in advance to sit down and pinpoint every day’s mileage, when we would take breaks and where we would stay every night. As someone who doesn’t plot, but likes to fly by the seat of my pants, I wanted to decide along the way when we were feeling tired and needed to stop. As long as we got to Seattle by a certain date for a class I was teaching, the trip was going to be a voyage of discovery.
As we were driving along, the idea of my blog on pacing suddenly began to take root. She is a careful planner, and for certain as you plot your beginning, you want to know where and with whom you are starting. You probably also want to know where you are going to end up. But from there, the story, like our trip can take a lot of unforeseen turns and twists.
For instance, we got off to a quick start, driving through the wide open freeways of Wyoming with only a few cars around us. The weather was great, we were sailing along. A fast beginning – that’s just the way to start a trip or a book. But all too quickly we ran into road work. Not good. We had to slow down. And that can happen when you’re writing too. Suddenly you hit an unforeseen event, whether it’s a recalcitrant character or a plot twist that is going nowhere.
But wait, while we were sitting waiting for the repair crew to let us know the road was open, we were able to watch a herd of buffalo that wandered near the fence and the freeway. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the magnificent creatures up close, something we wouldn’t have seen if we had still be sailing along.
The next day took us through the mountains and again, the pace slowed, but this time because we chose to slow it – we wanted to enjoy the changing fall colors.
Benefits of analyzing your pacing
The pacing of your story can be very similar. One minute you are sailing along and then you hit a bad point. You have it plotted, but what do you do next? Sometimes the pacing can hold the answer. Do you want to slow down your story, give your readers a chance to enjoy the scenery or the characters? Or do you need to rush along toward the conclusion because the story has been slow for a while and you need to make up for lost time? Sometimes it may be your characters who make the decision, sometimes you have to push them along, and sometimes the plot really needs that shove. But it’s the overall trip that you will remember later, so speed it up, or slow it down. But enjoy the ride … and the story.
We’re on track to make it to Seattle, but we’ve also decided to let that trip home take as long as we might need. We are going to let the trip set its own pace because this will be a trip we’ll always remember.
Next week, I’ll begin a class for Savvy on setting the pace of your story. I hope you’ll consider tackling the pacing issue with me as we go on your story trip.
Becky will be presenting From Beginning to End – Let’s Pace your Story with Becky Martinez at SavvyAuthors starting October 16.
Becky Martinez is a former broadcast journalist who writes fiction, nonfiction and regularly teaches writing classes. Currently she is working with co-author Sue Viders on a series of writing books, titled, Let’s Write a Story. Seven Ways to Plot and Creating a Memorable Character are currently available on Amazon.com and they will soon be joined by The Plotting Wheel and Building Believable Villains.
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