Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Writing

Writing is hard. Sure, we have lots of ideas, can plot out a story like nobody's business and have voice pretty much covered, BUT we're falling a wee bit short in some...uh other rather important areas. Mainly character development and pacing.

But who needs character development? Who cares about the pace of a story?

Turns out readers do. Who knew?

When we actually sat down to analyze our shortcomings, we realized something. Because we write together, there's a whole lot of dialogue back and forth about all aspects of a WIP. We know the characters inside and out, understand their backstory, know what makes them tick. The problem is translating this onto the page--showing the reader (ah, showing versus telling, how you haunt us), investing the reader, getting the reader to understand. A few quirks is not enough. Readers want emotional investment. They want to pull for characters, root them on, CARE. By the millionth draft of The Liar Society, we like to think we were able to tap into that, but we want to learn how to do that in the first or second draft! We want to learn how to write more efficiently.

In terms of pacing, we've gotten greedy since reading primarily YA. We love being thrown into a story, like the feeling of whiplash, of action, the go-go-go. But, as always, there's a fine line. A plot can definitely move too quickly, leaving a reader feeling annoyed and uninterested. We want to learn the art of unfolding a story, luring our readers along. And we want to learn it NOW.

So...we're in research mode. We're reading and learning and talking and practicing. Because we want to get it right. We're determined to get it right. We have to get it right.

For the love of God, please tell us we're not the only ones. Leave your writing-related Achilles' heels in the comments.

27 comments:

J. L. Jackson said...

It's great to see a published author still researching the craft. It's a learning process one doesn't master early on.

Cheree said...

It just proves that no matter how far along one is on their journey there is still so much more to learn. Good luck with the research.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Pacing is the thing I have to work on the most -- at least it seems to be the thing I end up revising the most. Also (judging by my agent's feedback) making sure stakes are high enough for the main character in the early part of the story. Letting things snowball is okay, but I need to start out with more than a flake!

NotNessie @ Today's Adventure said...

I agree with J.L. It is so encouraging to see published authors still looking to improve. And, perhaps more importantly, admitting to it.

Character development is tricky for me. I know who they are, how come you don't?

Laura Pauling said...

I'm constantly working on all those areas. The biggest learning tool for me is studying books I like.

Matthew MacNish said...

Personally I prefer a story to build slowly, like a good mix tape, or the set list at a concert. It probably comes from reading so much fantasy, but that's just how I like it.

My biggest Achilles' heel is over-writing when it comes to description, and giving my young characters thoughts, dialogue, and ideas that are too grown up for them. So yeah, I have like four heels.

Jackee said...

I have those two same weaknesses in my writing too. Sometimes I forget my MC is not a camera lens, but rather should act and react. Plots are great, but pacing as to allow character development... well, I haven't learned to get it right in later drafts as you have.

Good luck in research/learning land, ladies! Please share your knowledge when you get around to it!

Katie Anderson said...

Fascinating post! I'm right there with you. Yesterday I was actually watching LOADS of reality shows on Bravo and thinking, "Ok. They give us probably ten minutes of these people's day, but it's a crucial ten minutes. The ten that makes me feel like I know them and want to know more. Then they skip onto the next thing. And so on."

That might not make sense, but I am now trying to envision my characters as a reality TV show in which I am the cameraman, showing my readers my characters lives in tiny bits.

I have also decided to attempt (for first drafts) to actually show TOO much, with the understanding that I will CUT in the second draft. I write pretty pacey, so I am trying to get anything and everything out there and then later decide what my readers (tv viewers) will want to hang on to.

I dunno. Just a new way of approaching a project.

GOOD LUCK!

Josh Hoyt said...

I think that as a writer my difficulty is description. I just don't have the words to describe what a person looks like or the features that a person has. I also am lacking in grammar yuck.
BTW my blog is all about characterization the psychology of it and how to get into the mind of our characters. I think helping a character change and showing that change is in understanding what makes the character change,what makes people change. Showing change needs to look real and believable and the better we understand why we change the better we will be able to describe it.

Katie Mills said...

Pacing was always a hard one for me. I think I've gotten better at it now and I'm a total outliner, which helps.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Achilles Heel: everything!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Plotting and pacing for me. I outline, but when I add things at someone's suggestion, or my plot takes a slight detour, my pacing apparently slows. Darn it.

I know someone who is published by a teensy press so he thinks he doesn't have to learn anything new about the craft of writing. So glad you girls have a different mentality. :D

(PS your book has finally been shipped to me. But they didn't ship it with City of Fallen Angels (I preordered them together) so who know why they couldn't have shipped it two weeks ago)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

THANK YOU! It makes my day to hear that you guys struggled with those issues, because I think you did it brilliantly. There's hope for me! :-)

LTM said...

argh, this is me. Underwriting is tough, and the only thing that helps me is to put the story away for like a month, so I'll forget it. Then I see all sorts of thin spots...

Critters to the rescue! :o) <3

Cynthia Lee said...

Pacing is a problem. I just figured this out recently, as in like a week ago.

I need to remember Stephen King's advice about first writing a book for yourself and then writing it again for someone else. I have a tendency to "finish" and then sing la-la to myself and forget that there are other people out there who want the story to, you know, move the hell along.

storyqueen said...

I'm pretty much an underwriter. I usually have to add lots of stuff in revision for things to make sense.

Shelley

Heidi said...

I'd share them all, but it would take up more space then possible. Character, plot development and pacing. Voice. Using setting effectively. The good news: this stuff can be learned! Go team go!

P.S. I'd love to hear what you guys learn along the way. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

The thing my cps get me on the most right now is not enough description. I'm all over the action and dialog, but by keeping up the pacing, I tend to not give readers enough to ground them in the place. I definitely need to work on that.

Krispy said...

Know exactly how you feel. Been trying to get through a section, and all I can think is WHY IS THIS SO HARD?! :P Guess I'm rusty on this whole writing thing.

Happy researching!

Kerri Cuev said...

Don't study to hard there is always room for mtv and way bad reality shows :)

Jessica said...

I'm with Josh, description is definitely the hardest thing for me to write.
I don't like reading too much description when I get involved in a novel; it bores me.
So, when I write I tend to leave a lot of description out, but people do need some description. . . It is just something I'm going to have to work on more.

Marsha Sigman said...

Plot heavy, character light.

I'm like the literary equivalent of light beer but I'm working on it.

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm in the same boat as y'all, actually. (Except for the fact that there's only one of me.)

The first step is admitting you have a problem, so I think I'm doing pretty good considering. ;)

I know I need to work on my showing and character development if I want to get pubbed. And I've never wanted anything so badly in all my life.

Timely post, ladies!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Pacing is the WORST!! Mainly because by the time you know a story backwards and forwards, it's impossible to see the pace. Impossible. You have to trust crit partners blindly, because golly, who can tell?
...
This is something I've been struggling with. If you couldn't tell. :)

Little Ms J said...

Pacing and structure. I want to vomit it all out and then find I have to go back and make it make sense.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lack of description is my ultimate nemesis!

emily j. griffin said...

@KatieAnderson,

It's like this metaphor for The Real Housewives just GETS me. You know? You + it = genius.

"OMG, Camille!"