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Friday, August 24, 2007

Keeping the Pace

I am working on the editing stage of a romantic suspense book. This stage is very painful for me. I seem to have made habits of several things that slow the pace. I’m trying to “unlearn” them, or learn to keep them in stories that call for a slower pace.

One of the chief offenders is the compound sentence joined by “, and.” One editor in particular hates this construction. When I use it, I get tons of penciled notes in the edge of the manuscript: “This is killing the tension! Break up these sentences!” So I’m finding it wise to search for “, and” before I turn in a manuscript (at least for this editor) and banish them.

Another bad habit I have is acres of dialogue when it isn’t really needed. I love writing dialogue, and I like to think I’m good at it. If that’s my strong point, I should use it a lot, right?

Not necessarily.

“Cut the chitchat” is what I get penciled in for that. Or “Cut this scene from 5 pages to 1.”

Ouch.

But she’s right.

I write cozy mysteries. I also write historical romances. Both of these genres are much slower paced than romantic suspense. When I switch back and forth, it takes an effort to get back into gear for suspense. (Probably one reason my agent is encouraging me to write more suspense and less of the other genres, but we won’t get into that today.)

I’ve learned one thing that makes readers keep reading when they get to the end of a chapter: Leave them hanging. This works in any genre, but is necessary in suspense to keep the tension high. So at the end of the chapter, I try to leave my main characters doing one of three things:

1. Making a discovery, perhaps an awful one, like a dead body or the fact that someone is shooting at them.

2. Taking action, like bolting for cover or jumping out of an airplane.

3. Coming to a decision.

The last option is not as high powered as the other two, but can be effective. Inner conflict keeps the tension going in suspense as well as outer, physical conflict.

For instance, after thinking about all the heroine’s actions, the hero may decide that, even though he’s not sure he can trust her, he’s going to make sure she makes it out of this situation alive. Coming to that resolution can be a good place to leave him at the end of a section or chapter. The question is, how will he do it?

Or your heroine may decide that, danger or no danger, she’s going to confront the villain. The reader will want to be watching over her shoulder when she does.

Back to editing now. Watch for my Love Inspired Suspense books in January (Just Cause) and April (Witness) and tell me what you think.

Susan

12 Comments:

Blogger oomi said...

so you are an editor nice editing dear!

12:16 PM  
Blogger Herdingcats said...

This reminds me of the decision making process for anything. There are stages, just like stages of grief. My health plan called me to find out what my stage was in the decision to lose weight and exercise. I'm sure you can find lists of these on the internet.

I like how you have substantive change in each chapter, fueling the plot. You could foreshadow the final decision by subtly getting the character through those decision making steps with each chapter as well.

As for sentence structure, check out grammar girl's quick and dirty tips to clean up your writing podcast. You can subscribe through itunes, it's great and she's tackled the very subject with which you struggle.

You inspire me

7:24 PM  
Blogger Gina Conroy said...

Great article! I'm about to go into edits and will keep these things in mind!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Marissa Fischer said...

Those are some really great observations. Now if I could only see my weaknesses as well so I could cut them before my submissions.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Cabbie said...

I really enjoy this blog. It is filled with good advice and is inspiring to me as a beginning writer. Do you mind if I link to you on my blog?
~Always~

4:40 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

I really enjoy reading ur blogs i will be looking for ur books!

7:09 PM  
Blogger Ollie Onions said...

But... I love chit-chatty dialogue. *smile*

Interesting perspective, thank you.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Luke Slater said...

I know what you mean, nice post :)

6:58 AM  
Blogger Renegade said...

Awesome advice! Keep it up!

Check out Renegade's BS

10:48 AM  
Blogger Aditi said...

Must compilment you for having a great endowment for writing. You inspire..:)

10:29 AM  
Blogger Glenna said...

Wonderful article, very helpful. Keep it up; can't wait to read more.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

It has to be hard switching to different ms(s) that have different pacing, especially if you're working on them at the same time.

My cp always says to keep the sentences clipped during high tension. I see you have given the same advice. :D

Hugs, JJ

1:21 PM  

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