Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Setting the Pace

Thought for the dayA yawn is an honest opinion openly expressed. [unknown]



Yawns are a natural (and contagious) part of life, and they're fine... as long as they aren't happening when someone is supposed to be reading my book. [me]

Yep. It's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Before tackling this month's question, how about a little change of pace? The pace in our writing, that is...

Ever hear of a gearhead? That's what my husband Smarticus is. Simply put, that means he has a passion (and talent) for building cars. At one of the car meets we attended, he pointed at one of the cars and told me, All go and no whoa.  (Yeah, he has a way with words.) Anyway, a couple weeks after that, I found out he wasn't just being funny.


Stan, one of our amateur radio buddies, has a '56 Chevy. She's a beauty, and has been lovingly and meticulously restored, inside and out. One weekend, when we were attending a hamfest in his part of the state, he offered to take us for a spin in his baby. Oh yeah!

So he got behind the wheel, we climbed in, and off we went. It was glorious!

Until it wasn't.

We were barreling down a hill at a pretty hefty pace, and rapidly approaching the bottom, where the road abruptly ended in a T... and a stop sign. Stan pressed his foot on the brake, but that old Chevy barely even slowed down. We kept on a-rolling, right through the stop sign and around the corner. All go, no whoa.

Maybe we should be more aware of the potential all go and no whoa pitfalls in our writing, too.


I'm not suggesting the action in our books should move at a snail's pace. That may be "safe", but it's boring. If we were only creeping along at 5 MPH, the ride in that Chevy would've been much safer, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Who wants to creep down the road, or watch grass grow, or read a book where nothing ever happens? And if you're barely moving, who notices or worries about a stop?





                         On the other hand, we can't be flying at 100 MPH all the time, either.

Adrenaline-pumping, high speed action is thrilling, but it can also be exhausting for a reader, and the longer it goes on, the less effective it becomes. If you give your readers nothing but superlatives, they quickly lose their meaning and punch.

Like so many other things in life, what we need in our writing is balance. Lull the reader with the slow parts, and then smack the crap out of him with a surprising burst of speed.

Sound familiar?


                                                     Oh, yeah. Like a roller coaster ride.

As an ideal, I think a book should vary its pace and carry its readers through a lot of ups, downs, and surprising turns. I'm not a huge fan of roller coasters, but I do love to be surprised when I'm reading, don't you?.

That's the ideal. Does my first novel measure up to that? Honestly, no. Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is more like a pleasant Sunday drive with a few hairpin turns and dips in the road. (But my brakes eventually work!)

How about you? How would you describe the pace in the books you most enjoy? How about in the books you write? Is it the same, or different?

Oh, and by the way, if you're restoring an old car, please update the brakes. Safety trumps authenticity when you're barreling down the street.

And now (ta DA!) the Question of the Month: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?




Okay, how can I put this? I'm afraid when it comes to NaNo, my reaction has been strictly... NoNo. Not because I don't think it's a totally cool concept, and I have a lot of respect for the people who are disciplined enough to essentially write an entire book in a single month, but when it comes to writing, I'm content to crawl along in the slow lane. I mean, compared to those writers, I'm like a turtle waddling down the runway with airplanes taking off all around me. So a book in a month isn't likely to ever happen for me. To all you guys who are giving it a go this month, good luck to you! I'll stay in the right hand lane so y'all can fly on past.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




64 comments:

  1. Love hearing your response to NaMo. My non-writerly self recoils in horror. And I wonder how many do get published - without extensive and time consuming editing/rewrites.
    My reading varies. Sometimes I love drifting gently down the stream with a book and at other times it is roller coaster and gritted teeth time. Fortunately both are available to my bookaholic self.

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    1. You've really got to stop calling yourself "non-writerly." I've READ some of what you've written, and you're no such thing... you write; therefore, you ARE a writer.

      I like a change of pace in the things I read, too, but I've found that the slow-moving 1000+-page books I used to love years ago bore me to tears now.

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  2. Completely agree with you about balance. It's why I like to mix lots of slice-of-life scenes amidst the more dramatic ones; helps makes the twists in my comics more impactful, I hope!

    And LOL, love NoNo as a nickname for NaNo. I'm too turtle-like for that challenge, too. Am always amazed by the writers who excel at it!

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    1. Yes! You're right... cartoons need balance, too! (Even if some of the characters are a bit UN-balanced...HA!)

      You and me both. I can't imagine being able to ignore everything else in my life for a whole month in order to churn out that many words. More power to all those folks who can!

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  3. I don't write anything these days, and when I used to write books they were just text books telling people how to teach English to slow learners, not an exciting theme. But when I read books, I like to have a lot of change and some surprises to keep me going. I find it hard to believe that a good book can be written in a month, though. Have a great November, hugs, Valerie

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    1. You may not be writing BOOKS any more, but you're still writing. :)

      I don't know how many of the books that come out of NaNo are "good." It's more of an exercise in getting the words down on the paper. You know... "Damn the grammar; full speed ahead!" However, it does give writers something concrete to work with at the end of the month, and many have turned the month's work into the basis for a good book.

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  4. I love a mystery with lots of twists & turns!!

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    1. My favorite mysteries are the ones the keep me guessing. Nothing better than a resolution that catches you completely by surprise.

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  5. Hi Susan - glad you all got out of the run-away in tact ... and have an arm to write with. NoNo is me too ... but we can all find our own approach to our books and write on ... life needs to be in balance too - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary.

      Yep, life needs to be in balance, too. Everything in moderation. I guess that means I'd better give away most of this leftover Halloween candy... :)

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  6. Stephen King advises writer wannabes to avoid using too many adjectives and very long and detailed descriptions. I agree. Nothing is more boring than start reading a story and come across detailed descriptions of what people are wearing, the landscape, the personality features since the character was born... it's good to leave something to the readers' imagination.

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    1. Yes. Exactly! I'm a very fast reader, and coming upon those long descriptive (and irrelevant) blah-blah sections is like flying down the Autobahn and coming upon a darned speed bump.

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  7. Unlike you, I am a blogger and not a writer of books. I think of my blog as a daily journal where I keep thoughts and quotes etc that I like. I think it takes someone special to be a writer and I love to read and am thankful for the many entertaining hours that books provide. I learn something new every day of my life and the word gear head is a new one to me and so thank you for my something new today. Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

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    1. You may not write books, but you COULD. Your blog posts are always inspirational and exactly the kind of thing people need to read in today's world.

      Cool. I'm glad gearhead is a new word for you. :)

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  8. What a great analogy. I so clueless I didn't even get what your husband meant by that expression until you spelled it out for us with the story. Takes me a while sometimes....
    Anyway I'm in awe that he can build cars. I can't even imagine. And that Chevy is super cool looking but also reminds me a little too much of Christine. Yikes.

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    1. I'm a little in awe of Smarticus' car smarts, too. My favorite car is his 1930 Model A rat rod. He had a lot of fun (and hard work) building it and making it what he wanted it to be. (Almost as much fun as I have RIDING in it!)

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  9. How scary to be in that car when the brakes didn't work. Eek! Varying pace is tricky. I do worry that the pace in my novel is too slow and readers will be bored. Yet another thing I'm going to have to figure out. So much to learn when it comes to writing :-)

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    1. Yeah, it was scary. I'm just grateful there were no other cars on that road when we entered it. We woulda been toast.

      HA! Just when we think we have it figured out, somebody goes and adds a new wrinkle...

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  10. Has to be a balance indeed. The speed can differ depending on the story and genre, but each has to reflect its own pace. Can be a bit tricky sometimes.

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    1. Yeah, it can be tricky, but we writers are all magicians when it comes to words. Right? (Right...?)

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  11. Haha! I'm with you on NaNo. I tried it once. Total wreck. *sigh*

    I'm one of those fast paced readers. I read a book not too long ago that was slow and sweet, and I know there are readers for that genre, but it was difficult for me to finish. I want to thrill along the way. And that's what I try to write--where mystery steps in when action isn't the driving force. Always a threat. Always a lingering question.

    Btw, I nominated you for an award in September. I know not everyone does those things, but I wanted to let you know...since it's part of the obligation in accepting said award. Even two months late. LOL. Cheese to you!

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    1. Woo HOO! It's great to hear from you again. Let me raise a nice block of cheese in your honor... how about pepperoni marinara cheese? It's a new favorite... tastes like pizza! (I can hardly wait to grill it on a sandwich...) And I can hardly wait to pop over to your blog to see pics of your new angel. (You DO have some pics there, right? Oh what am I saying. Of COURSE you do...)

      Yeah, I know what you mean. "Slow and sweet" can be very annoying when you're looking for some pizzazz.

      Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate the gesture. :)

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  12. I like how you correlated the writing a book with the “All go, no whoa Chevy”. I am wondering though, what made the car stop?

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    1. Thanks.

      The brakes stopped the car. It HAD brakes, but it was still the old ones, which aren't nearly as good as the more modern ones. They simply weren't up to the task of stopping at the bottom of an incline.

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  13. I like the roller coaster analogy. And I like some books that move slow and have laughs, and others that zoom like crazy. It depends on the whole package. In regards to NaNo - it worked well to help me kick My Zoo World into final chapters. Any fiction I've attempted has been futile. This is a good post and very practical. Thanks

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    1. Yeah, the whole package is what counts. So does our mood. Sometimes, I can't bear to read predictable romances with happy-ever-after endings, and sometimes, a sweet reliable tale with inane humor and no major conflicts is just what I need.

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  14. I totally get why people pass on NaNo. It's not for everyone that's for sure.

    By the way, how did the Chevy stop?

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    1. I wish you lots of luck with the NaNo.

      The Chevy HAD brakes, but they were the old ones, which aren't anywhere near as good as the more modern ones, so the brakes did stop the car... just not at the bottom of that hill. They simply weren't up to the task.

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  15. I've never participated in NaNo either. Way too busy this time of year. Every year. Loved all those old car photos!

    Happy November :)

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    1. Happy November to you, too, kiddo! Time for Book Two to hit the world yet? (Your readers are waiting...) :)

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  16. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Susan! I like a balanced book, too, but with a story that pulls me along, fast-paced or not. I'm contemplating a NaNo-like pace in December, but I'm not ready to give the actual NaNo a go. That would be like tempting the universe to throw obstacles in my way. Happy writing!

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    1. Thanks! And just so you know, because of your review, I bought Pat's book. :)

      NaNo-like in December, huh? Maybe you could call it De-Noel. Good luck with it, and happy writing to you, too.

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  17. Go a hundred miles an hour all the time and you'll exhaust your reader.
    Bet that was one nerve-racking moment!

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    1. Absolutely. We want to "knock their socks off," but not because of the speed.

      It was very scary. Not at car shows, I always check to see if the old brake systems have been updated. :)

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  18. Susan, I love this post --especially the top of 3 closing photos. I learned to drive in a '59 Bel Air. Completed the curriculum in a '63 Impala. Great cars! No cup holders! G-forces when accelerating. As to writing, I agree wholeheartedly. I've always been partial to writers like you, and Twain (who makes the reader feel loved).

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    1. Oh yeah, I can relate to the G-forces. My hubby had a '61 Chevy Impala with enough rear window to make it feel like a fish bowl. That thing could MOVE! It had a reverb in the trunk, too, which I called the "tiger in the tank." Good times. Then again, his cars STILL move. Even his oldest, the 1930 Model A rat rod has a lot more under the hood than one would suspect. :) And his newest, the Challenger... hmmm, just like old times.

      Dude! I'm honored to be in the same sentence with Twain. Thank you. That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

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  19. Love all the car memes at the end of your post!

    My ex-husband thrived on thrills, and speed, and chaos. It was very exhausting living with him...and in the end it was just very destructive. Nothing against some thrills and excitement - in the right intervals with lazy-river-rides and sweet, soft music. Too much unpredictability is nerve-rattling.

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    1. I really like those car memes, too. (And the CARS...)

      I couldn't have handled the go-go-go chaotic lifestyle at all. One day a year would have been more than enough for me.

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  20. I like books that have both slow and fast paced parts in the story... like you said, being to slow all the time would be dull and being too fast would be too overwhelming... xox

    As for writing a whole book in a month, kudos to those people, I couldn't imagine doing that ... I would be in the slow lane myself xox

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    1. Yeah, it's nice to mix up the pace a little bit.

      Well, cool, there's plenty of room in the slow lane right next to me. :)

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  21. Much like you, I prefer a leisurely pace when I'm writing - and also when I'm reading. I was never the type to speed up and pass, just for the sake of brevity or the quest to be first.
    A snail's pace is annoying, but I do like to take my time.

    I discovered (through long and bitter experience) to think carefully before speaking and the same goes for writing.

    ...but, heck, a roller coaster ride now and then isn't exactly a bad thing....

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    1. I'm not a speed up and pass kinda person, either. My hubby has to take my car out every once in a while to "blow out the carbon." (That's what he calls it, anyway.)

      A little bitty roller coaster, maybe. Ever since my dear hubby pointed out the obvious about the cheapest bidder being the builder, my enthusiasm for them isn't quite as high. :)

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  22. Greetings Susan. I enjoyed reading this well written piece. I write at a snails pace - nothing wrong with that! Take good care.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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  23. Me do not like roller coaster rides but will tackle if so needed in order to survive. friend Sue ... you better believe it ... video is of son Paul *ski board), daughter in law Leanne (filming and skiing) and me slip sliding and fallin and getting up) ... Happy November, friend ... cat.
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/aJ9hdrEE3q4?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

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    1. That video is awesome! Some parts of it almost made me feel like I was the one on skis. (All I needed was for someone to throw some snow in my face. And all over me... because if it were me, I would've been on the ground more than I'd be standing up on those skis.) As far as you falling and getting up, the important thing is that you got up more times than you fell. You never gave up! Looks like you were all having a great time. Happy November to you, too!

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    2. ... and about cars ... I love cars and I love speeding (yes, officer, sorry officer) ... smiles are always appreciated even by the police ... I remember being out of gas and coasting downhill on bare fumes to a town called Hope, BC ... smiles ... for some 10 miles with a police car following me lights blinking and all ... He followed me right to the gas station, and when I explained my calamity, he let me go with a warning ... smiles ... ya ... Happy Winter, friend Sue ... Love, cat.

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    3. Sometimes, it just pays to be female. :) Somehow, I don't think a smile from a male driver would've had nearly the same effect as a smile from a pretty lady like you.

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  24. You're totally wrong about your book. Hot Flashes was excellent because it was character driven and those characters were as wonderful and diverse as a field of spring flowers. Who doesn't love a train ride through an extraordinary landscape? Not all thrills in life have to be life threatening. Just saying...

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    1. Wow. (sniff, sniff) That's really sweet of you to say. You and Geo both made my day. :) Thank you.

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    2. Love Pearl 4 ever ... cat.

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    3. Thank you. Y'all are just being so nice! Happy weekend, dear cat.

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  25. Hi, Susan! This is my first time here. I'll follow your blog and connect with you online. I like your blog.

    Elizabeth is correct. I don't think books/plots need to be all action. We don't need to leave the reader breathless constantly. Many come to story for insight shared through events happening whether real or fictitious.

    All the best to you!
    http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi-ya, Victoria. It's very nice to meet you. Welcome aboard!

      Yeah, you and Elizabeth are both right. Some of my favorite books... like the ones written by Ann Tyler... are short on action and delightfully long on character.

      And the best to you! Happy weekend!

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  26. I can have days where I write 3-4k words (followed by a week without a word) so I have completed Nano before. It doesn't mean those 50k words read well or are even worth working one post Nano. I prefer to write with a bit of a deadline, usually self-imposed and to keep me away from too much procrastination. And to be in tune with the ebb and flow of my writing rhythm. The best stories come from time to churn ideas around my mind and to get to know my characters overtime. You can't do that in a month. But it really does work for some, especially those who are excellent plotters and stick to those plots. Not me though. X

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    1. MAYBE if a whole lot of that idea-churning and character analyses, etc. were completed prior to the start of NaNo, it might be more doable, but it'd still be tough for those of us who aren't good at writing a set number ( a LARGE set number) of words every day. Like you, I'm better off going with my natural ebb and flow.

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  27. I think balance in life or in a book needs a little bit of everything! Life's path is very rarely straight, it takes us on many twists and turns ...
    I'm reading a good mystery at the moment and enjoying the twists with every turn of the page I make!

    Have a great November

    All the best Jan

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    1. You're right about life not being a straight path, and aren't you glad you are? Those twists and turns keep things interesting for us, both in life and in books.

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  28. I am with you on NaNo, because I write nonfiction. I think it applies more to novels. Even then I don't need the pressure LOL. What an adventure you had in the classic Chevy with no brakes.

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    1. Depending on the topic, I would've thought a non-fiction book might work more easily than a novel. That's assuming the outlining and research were already completed prior to November.

      Yeah, it was quite an adventure. We had a good laugh over it once we realized we weren't gonna die. :)

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  29. Well, sure, that car doesn't stop properly, but it looks spectacular barreling through a stop sign.

    -a fellow gearhead

    I'm also in the NoNo category. As long as what I'm writing is thrilling, I don't mind if the actual writing process is anything but.

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    1. HA! Yeah, it definitely looked good. (Except for those old farts yelling in the back seat...)

      Well, the writing can be thrilling, even if the process is a tad slow.

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    1. Thanks, but for me, it's still a NoNo for NaNo. :)

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