Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing Craft: Pace / Writer's Update.

My list of assignments, because I'm organized!
Oh Mondays... 9am lectures when I haven't eaten red meat in over a month are not nice. A word of advice to anybody out there who has recently started doing their shopping/cooking for themselves: don't put off getting the red meat!!! Lack of iron makes you SLEEPY and DYSFUNCTIONAL! Luckily, I stocked up on iron-y goodness this afternoon...

In other news, I am glad to say that I am HAPPY with the mark I received for my first Writing Craft assessment, 'Sketching with Words' and hope to get even better on the assessment I just handed in today, 'Memory as Seed'.  My third and final assessment for the semester isn't due until June, so perhaps I'll find time to write something else between now and then. 

You know you haven't been utilizing your creative outlet often enough when you notice an increase in how often you zone out, daydream and talk to yourself when you're alone... Yes, I have noticed an increase. 

Have I mentioned how crappy the internet connection on campus is? It's really crappy. 

Also: I found the notes I lost from my tutorial last week. Yay! Moving on! 

When: Pace

Readings for week 6 were Trouble is my Business by Raymond Chandler (pages 7-23), The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (pages 1-17) and Astronauts by Tim Richards (pages 239-251). 

The first thing the lecturer wanted to stress was that pace was mostly about variation. It is a composition of speeds and slownesses. In writing, pace is the effect or effects of how time passes for the reader. How do we experience time in our bodies and minds when we read? Pace could also be described as imitating or upsetting the rhythm of things. Our lecturer had us listen to some different musical compositions when she told us this. One of them had a beat that was like an imitation heartbeat and it infected everybody in the lecture theatre. But something that all of the pieces of music she shared with us had in common was that the pace varied. There would be lulls in the fast-paced pieces and then it would pick up again. The slow-paced pieces would speed up suddenly and then slow down again. It was interesting to take note of. 

Some tools for manipulating pace are:
- Sentence length (Longer sentences can be good for slow-pace scenes, using lots of clauses separated by commas, making it hard for the reader to catch a breath, but perhaps making a more detailed image, especially when describing something. Short sentences work better in fast-pace scenes, forcing us to pause more often and breathe, making the clauses feel more fragmented or simplified.)
- Word length and word choice
- Paragraph length 
- Register of vocabulary (whether it is posh, jargony, rigorous, vague...)
- Punctuation (This can give the writing a certain personality.) 
- The white space on a page
- Strategy in description 

Our lecturer described somebody who constantly keeps up a fast pace in their writing as similar to a teenage rock band who never plays slower music, because mistakes are more likely to be recognized, but eventually it gets boring and monotonous. Faster is not always more desirable and variation in pace is important. Important details can be caught more easily between the fast-pace scenes of a story, but you need something slow-to-medium-paced to put between them. 

Pace can also be set by dialogue. We can get a feel of whether the character is a fast-pace character or a slow-pace character by their dialogue. Dialogue should always be deliberate and purposeful and it is important to remember that readers don't want the typical conversation full of ums and ahs you'd have in real life; dialogue in good fiction is often unrealistic. Of course, that doesn't mean disregard realistic dialogue all together, but you should try and aim for the more witty, meaningful, influential words when your character says something; not necessarily something that you'd be able to think of on the spot in real life... unless you happen to be one of those unrelentingly witty, meaningful and influential people. 

Something that can catch us out and slow our pace in a bad way is when we overload the detail. So if you read over a scene that you feel should be fast-pace, but you find it's dragging, remember that you don't need to tell your reader EVERY linking detail between Point A and Point B, because our own brains will fill in the obvious details for us. Always be aware of your pace and whether it is working or not. 

Useful links: 

Have you noticed different paces in your writing? Try writing a scene while listening to fast-paced music, and then try writing it again while listening to slow-paced music. Try to match the pace of your writing to that of the music. I did this in my tutorial and I'll share it later in the week.  

- Bonnee. 


  1. Never slowing the pace can be exhausting, too. lol

    1. Oh yeah, of course! Imagine running a marathon and never slowing up. It would kill you and writing unrelentingly at such a fast pace would drain a writer and make the reader very tired... everyone needs a break.

  2. "You know you haven't been utilizing your creative outlet often enough when you notice an increase in how often you zone out, daydream and talk to yourself when you're alone... "

    I can relate to this. I've also noticed an increase in the number of things that have been catching hold in my mind and making me think, "There's a story in there!" Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to play with them and work them out.

    I have a tendency to work in slow interludes into my work. As Donna says, it's important not to exhaust the reader. I may get a little too slow, and a little too digressive at times.

    1. I'm glad I am not the only one who can relate to the whole zoning out/daydreaming/talking to yourself thing... Though I will not deny that I am crazy. It's those "There's a story in there!" moments that always slip away that bug me the most. I sit there going "What if I DID write that?!"

      It's good to be able to identify where your pacing might not be working, so keep it in mind when you write, and more importantly when you edit.

  3. What a neat idea, listening to different types of music while you write! I need silence (or, at least, quiet) when I work, but if I didn't, I'd absolutely give that a whirl. Curious to see how it went for you!

    1. See, I am used to this idea and I ALWAYS have music playing. I've just never actually tried this exact exercise before and it was an interesting experience. Stay tuned to see how it turned out :)

  4. Happy for your first good grade and for finding the notes. I guess when hundreds of students using the internet at the same time, the system slows down and disconnect. That's a great lecture about Pacing and you teacher's method to listen to music with varied pace is interesting. Many nice tips in this lecture about pacing, but I don't think that so far I checked my novels for their pace. I just write as I feel like. I guess if you read it aloud, you can feel the pace better. Good advice about the dialoges to make them meaningful more than real life. My main problem is that I don't seem to write witty dialoges or one with sense of humor. They are realistic, alright, but maybe sometimes boring. So many things to learn about creative writing, and you are lucky to learn them now .. and hopefully implement some of the tips in your novels. Be well.

    1. I think different people can interpret pace on paper differently. If you're listening to it, it's set for you. But some readers might read something faster or slower than the writer intended it. I guess it's something that you just have to hope works for the right people, no matter how they interpret the pacing.

      Maybe keeping an eye on the dialogue when you edit your writing could help you think of more witty dialogue. It's always easier to edit if you have an idea of what needs improving.

      Hope people keep reaping the benefits of me sharing what I'm learning. Thanks for stopping by as always :)

    Since Ive been gone, it seems like you have settled into campus life quite well :D and dont stress bout the internet thing, the internet at my school is majorly crappy coz heaps of people are using Skype during class and somehow it makes the internet slower..

    and before you ask, the reason i havent been blogging in a while is............i dont know. i have no real good, legit, good enough sounding reason to write so ill just say im sorry. since your the only one who i know of who reads my blog im only saying this to you. :D but i have just done a new post, if you can surf on over to it it'd be much appreciated!!

    good luck with all your exam thingie majigs! Sure you'll do great in the final big assessment!!

    all my love



    PS: Happy ANZAC day for tomorrow fellow Aussie <3

    1. Aaaaah it's you!!! And about bloody time EJ! I keep checking your blog and I'm like SHE ISN'T POSTING ANYTHING!!! :( I will definitely surf on over in a sec. Stupid internetz everywhere.

      Campus life is great, and yes, I am very settled in.

      Don't apologies for not blogging. I've almost not been blogging. If not for all the lecture notes on writerly things I can share, I'd probably have gone on hiatus at this point.

      Assessments are kind of fun :) At least, for Writing Craft. The other units, not so much. But still good!

      Love ya,

      - Bonnee.

      P.S: Happy ANZAC day to you too! Aaand my res neighbour conned me into going to the dawn service in Melbourne with her tomorrow ;_; 4am starts, FML. Though I am totally doing an ANZAC day post (maybe tonight so that I'm ahead or whatever).


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