Saturday, July 14, 2012

Issues of Pacing

Oh, pacing.  That aspect of a novel that makes it speed by or drag like a dog rubbing it's ass on the carpet.

Pacing is an issue for a surprising number of writers.  I think we all struggle with it at some point or another.  There's so much that effects it.  How quickly action scenes play out.  How much information is jammed into a coffee session, how fast or slow the hero and heroine fall in love and get some happy fun-time in.  How much downtime there is between action scenes, how often clues to solve the mystery are doled out.  On and on and on.

Chapter length can effect pacing too.  I've been playing around with chapter length, and am rather intrigued by the results.  Before, my chapters were always right around 2,000 words, a result of my NanoWrimo training of one chapter, 2,000 words a day.  For the current project (loving dubbed The Book that Refused to Die) I've been making a point of making the chapters longer.  There are some that are twice the size of what I normally write.

Here's the interesting thing.  I think adjusting the chapter length has effected how I've paced the story.

There's more character interaction, more moments of domesticity, and little bits of backstory that I don't think I'd have included if I'd been "limited" by 2,000 words a chapter.  Yet there's more action, too.  The chapters aren't stagnant.  There's movement and action and drama and conflict and plot.  Plot!

Now, I was never limited by the 2,000 words.  Never.  Some chapters were shorter, occasionally they were longer.  I just always felt like the shorter chapters moved better, kept the story going at warp speeds.  This is stupid.  I've read plenty of novels where the chapters go for-freaking-ever.  That doesn't mean the book moved slower, that it was less action packed or plot driven, with those little moments of normalcy that gave remarkable insight about the various characters.

It might be an interesting experiment to go back and divide the chapters into 2,000 (or there abouts) clumps, and see how much it changes the pacing.  I won't do it, because I'm a lazy slouch, but I'd be curious about the results.  Would readers notice the difference?  Would it change the pacing for them, or am I rambling and it's all a figment of my imagination?

What do you think?  Does chapter length effect the pacing, or is it all about the content?

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