Monday, October 4, 2010

Writing Tip #2--Tips For Increasing The Pace

Lindi here.

We had a great shoe contest last week---thanks to all who participated. But the fun doesn't stop there.
No, we are starting the month of October off with another giveaway! That's right.
I'd like to introduce my very, very good friend and debut author
Maureen Hardegree!!

I thought her first novel would be a great giveaway for the "ghostly" month of October. Her book Haint Misbehavin' was a June release from Bell Bridge books.

Sisters. Boys. School.
Heather Tildy has enough trouble.
Then the first ghost shows up,
And life becomes supernatural.

That's the back cover blurb for Haint Misbehavin' and I couldn't have said it better myself.

So Maureen has shared a writing tip with us. If you comment your name goes in the special box to win an autographed copy of Haint Misbehavin'.

Here's what Maureen has to say about pacing.

Tip for Increasing the Pace
By Maureen Hardegree

Bloat happens in life and in writing. And although plenty weight loss gurus hawk fat-burning pills, there are no magic elixirs that reduce the extra weight in our manuscripts. I know. I’ve looked. But don’t despair, you, too, can reduce bloat and increase your novel’s pace. All you need is a little time, a legal pad for notes, and a commitment to revision.

Time allows you distance from the honeymoon happiness you felt when completing your novel. Distance from those amorous feelings makes it easier to cut, rearrange, and refine.

Read through each supposedly finished chapter and identify what changed for the point-of-view character in each scene. Write this information on your legal pad. If you discover that nothing has changed for your character except the setting in chapter after chapter, you have a pacing problem. Can you move what you love from that chapter, such as snappy dialogue, to another scene in the book? Or would cutting the scene completely make the story move faster? Be honest with yourself. Be ruthless. Better you than an editor who may turn down your manuscript due to pacing problems.

Word choice also affects pacing. Are your sensory descriptions tight, or do you go on and on about a winter sunset? On your legal pad, note which scene descriptions are too long. (Hint: the ones you’re tempted to skim to get to the action and dialogue). Commit to whittling a description you’ve identified as too long to one half its original size. Verb choice also slows down your pace. Check for weak verbs which are sometimes accompanied by adverbs to make them sound stronger. Are you using two verbs or two adjectives when one will do? Pick the one that is most specific. Do you nominalize your strong verbs? If you see something like “She heard the scrape of a chair moving…” change it to “A chair scraped….” Notice how much faster a story reads with fewer words.

In Haint Misbehavin’ Book One of the Ghost Handler series, I discovered the front end of the book had a slower pace. I cut two chapters, where not a lot changed for my heroine and moved what was salvageable to other scenes with those characters. Did I want to pull my hair out? Yes. But in the end the book was leaner and stronger from nipping and tucking.

Thanks, Maureen. Below we learn a little more about Maureen.

Although, Middle Grade YA author Maureen Hardegree concedes to having all the usual baggage of a middle child, she is NOT a ghost handler. She does, however, believe in connecting with her inner teenager and in feeding her active imagination—it likes Italian food and chocolate. When she’s not writing, she’s working on costumes for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet . . . or doing the bidding of her husband, daughter, and cats Pixie and Turnip Anne. Maureen is a past president of Georgia Romance Writers and a member of SCBWI. She is also a longtime contributor to the Mossy Creek Hometown anthologies, and her next short story will be published in Homecoming in Mossy Creek.

Remember to leave a comment to win a autographed copy of Haint Misbehavin'.


  1. Great interview ladies! Maureen, I like what you said about let time separate you from the Honeymoon feeling you have once you finish the novel. Very true. Good tips on pacing I can definitely use.

  2. Thanks, Christy! It's amazing how much we can see once we have that distance. I know several writers who build that time away into their deadlines.

  3. Good morning--early ladies!!
    Hi Christy--we missed you at M&M. Hope the little one is well.

    Hi Maureen!! Thanks again for being here.

  4. Helpful tips! I plan to start today, reading through one of my own "supposedly completed" novels, noting what changed for the main character in each paragraph. Sounds like a sensible way to cut the calories and optimize the nutrition of my writing. Thanks for the suggestions!

  5. Hi Maureen:

    As a reader, I want each chapter to advance the story. I also want enough story to justify the length of the book. I just read a long book where there were character changes but the story did not advance proportionately. Rather than simply removing the bloat, since the author had to hit a given page length, the author should have added interesting content and plot complications. That’s like a diet where you lose the fat by adding muscle.

    BTW: the real joy of reading a ‘cold’ manuscript of your finished WIP is when you come upon parts that make you think: “I did I really write this? This is great!” To me finding these passages is the real honeymoon. : )


    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  6. Alice,
    I hope your revision goes smoothly!

  7. Vince,
    You describe the real honeymoon so well!

  8. Hi Maureen,

    I recently edited an early scene of a WIP and axed quite a bit of verbage, including a lengthy paragraph (what was I thinking?!). It's great to see the need to do that reinforced. I'll try the legal pad method. Thanks for the tip!


  9. Alice--great to see you here!! I'm thrilled that you are starting a revision--that's awesome. I'm also trying to convince myself it's my favorite part of writing!!

  10. Alice--great to see you here!! I'm thrilled that you are starting a revision--that's awesome. I'm also trying to convince myself it's my favorite part of writing!!

  11. Vince, I do like those "did I write those?" moments. Great point!

  12. Hi Emily!! Glad you stopped by. I am constantly taking verbage out. If it can be said in 4 words I'm forever typing 10!!!

  13. Maureen, you're book sounds awesome. Thanks for the information on pacing. I'm actually struggling with that right now in my current story and discovering that revisions truly are re-envisioning your work. The advice to step back until the finished glow fades hits right on the mark.

  14. Hi Dianna,

    Thanks for coming by! We've missed you!
    I do like the step back until the glow fades. It's really helpful.

  15. Emily,
    Thanks for stopping by! It feels good to cut the stuff you don't need, doesn't it?

  16. Dianna,
    Glad that my haint book interests you. Good luck on your revision of your book!

  17. Hey, Maureen! I'm sorry I missed your post the other day. I was recovering from conference. :)

    Great post! I think time away is the main factor in being objective and cutting. Otherwise, those words are our little babies. :)