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A place for Round 3 Raters (and writers!) to discuss their experiences
Posted: 1/24/2011 9:12 PM PST
Finnean, also THANK YOU for the great observation you made about The Dragon Tattoo's first page on the other forum. One novel I read took 300 pages to reveal a thrilling surprise. It made reading an average book suddenly worth while when the author hit me with a great twist that took effort to reveal. Can you imagine how the slow first 50 pages of Gone with The Wind would do in round 3 if nobody actually knew Margret Mitchell's book today?
Posted: 1/11/2011 5:09 PM PST
Jefficus_Smith's post is exemplary of why I love this website and this forum.
That's very very true and something I hadn't considered but you absolutely judge the pace of any story by the weight of the remaining pages dangling off into your right hand.
I guess I assume an 800 page length. I hadn't asked myself that question before now but I was basing all my pacing argument on an imaginary hardcover of about 2lbs.
Posted: 12/12/2010 8:27 AM PST
Now, I'm not a psychologist, but I did play one in summer stock theatre once, so you just know what follows is an authoritative opinion. :-)
One of the real problems we're facing here is what I'll call the proportion problem. It has two aspects. First, we're writing novels of 100 or 400 or 1000 pages, and then submitting 50 pages for review. For some books, that's half the game, for others, it may not even get out of the prologue. So, from a reviewer's perspective, some submissions are going to be packed with content/action, and others are going to seem static. Unfortunately, there's no way for submitters to indicate the total length of the work, which would give reviewers some guide as to the appropriateness of the pacing they encounter.
The second aspect of the problem is that regardless of how big a portion of the book we're seeing, what we get is 100% of what we're going to read. Psychologically, this is a very difficult cue to wrestle with - all subconscious of course. We're used to reading entire books, or at least, having the entire unread portion of the book lying there in our right hand, waiting for us, and constantly reminding us that there is more to come. Now hack the front 50 pages off and give just that to somebody to read, and that right-hand content becomes very misleading. We're used to it signifying how much story is left, and so we subconsciously judge the pacing from that erroneous clue. And again, I think this could be fixed (or at least mitigated somewhat) if submitters could indicate total length.
Posted: 11/9/2010 1:40 PM PST
I've had reviewers tell me that my story was dragging while others said that things were probably moving along too fast. Welcome to the world of peer critique. One person will love your characters while another things they're flat. I've had people tell me they adored my characters and others say that even the dog in my novel was one-dimensional. Can't please everyone.
In a perfect world, fiction would be great no matter what the pace if the writing was compelling enough. The bottom line, I guess, is that we like what we like. Some of us have patience and love to settle into a deep story, and others want a novel that moves along at a frantic pace. I have a feeling that the format here at WeBook makes it easier for people to read something that's compelling and fast-paced than it is to read something that takes its sweet time.
Posted: 10/30/2010 2:57 PM PDT
One good thing about having different reviewers is they have different views, and a different pace will draw in different readers. Saving the entire world in the first twenty pages turns me off, and many of the best books I have ever read started slow.
But where there isn't pace there needs to be something else that draws you in. The Thomas Covenant stories had that, the Hobbit had that, etc. And that, whatever that is, draws in the readers that would be turned off by the stuff.
But you have to deliver what you promise. I just down rated a book that, in the first few pages, promised some interesting character study and then fizzled out into action adventure. So, go figure ;)
Posted: 10/28/2010 11:55 PM PDT
In the first book of Thomas Covenant by Steven Donaldson we get the terribly stiff morning routine of a leper for a good fifty pages. The most exciting thing happening at that point is that someone paid his bills in order to dissolve any possible reasons he'd have for coming into town so he's walking there to argue with them about it in person. The hero is so unlikely that he redefines anti-hero, spending the first 3 books denying his part in the adventure. 3 books of introduction, more or less, before we know anything about why he's important and that he will eventually take up his cross and play his part in history. But - it worked. I was riveted somehow.
So I agree that there's no formula; there are not even rules which can be bent or broken - there's simply good writing, fair, mediocre, poor and awful writing. Our component level breakdown into pacing, character development, dialogue, etc. is an erudite exercise in self-aggrandizement at worst... at best simply required for the sake of argument.
Ours is obviously the latter reason as we wish to provide feedback to the writer but what on this plane can be considered expertise? I have problems with Steven King's pacing, with Thoreau's and Steinbeck's at times. Pacing is too much an integral part of the artistic expression, entirely too subjective to be rated fairly but we must nonetheless try.
Where my argument comes flying apart is when EVERYTHING about the story falls below the level of art and that's the wall we are banging our heads on. "Buck leaned against the door-jamb and holstered his gun. His strong chiseled blah blah blah trash." I hardly feel like rating it but I know there is an audience for these stories and so we do our best.
I suppose I didn't answer the question. That's not really like me but I admit to struggling severely with this also.
Posted: 9/20/2010 2:06 PM PDT
Pace is tricky, for sure. Kind of a cross between taste and "you know it when you see it."
Dropping right into the action can disorient the reader when they don't know which character to care about yet.
Grounding the reader and creating empathy are a high priority, but too many words with nothing going on can create a drag.
Sometime opening with dialog can work if it's very "show" type dialog. Other times, it's annoying.
The rules say you shouldn't start with a wake-up scene, but THE HUNGER GAMES starts off just that way and the reader is drawn in immediately. Plus seeing how it's a best seller and neither Suzanne Collins' agent or editor changed that opening means rules are made to be broken if it's done right.
In the end, I think pacing is just an overall picture and if you aren't particularly fond of a genre (or think you aren't) you just get turned off anyway. Just read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and although I ended up liking the book, I have never read a slower paced and boring first thirty pages in my life.
Posted: 9/20/2010 1:29 PM PDT
Interesting you should bring this up. I've been dinged by a couple of raters so far who read the first chapter, felt the pace was too slow, and stopped. It's their opinion, and their entitled to it, but it raises a question of what's personal preference, what's marketable, and what's just plain good/bad.
It puts me in a bit of a bind, because to please a certain type of reader (and especially a certain type of writer-as-reader, it seems), I would have to drop straight into the action. But I've run my book by a lot of readers in my target audience (teenagers), and I don't think one has complained about the pace at the opening. If anything, they asked for more details that truly would be irrelevant to the rest of the story.
I've set it up the way it is for a reason, but I understand I have to make readers want to stick with it long enough for the pay-off. The trick is figuring out how to hook the type of reader I'm aiming for.
Posted: 9/20/2010 10:37 AM PDT
I've observed something I thought I should ask about. The issue of pace seems very important in this contest. Mainly, I've watched as the majority of elevated pieces rocket forward at a rampaging speed, meanwhile neglecting any real semblance of plot, description, character development, or actual tension. In my opinion, just because I read your book in three hours flat doesn't mean it was good, just that I didn't have to invest too much in it. That isn't, for me, a prerequisite for a good story.
I want something that draws me in and forces me to keep reading. Constantly. I like to stop at a red light and glance nervously over at the book next to me, wondering if I could get just one more page in before it turns. I can't do that unless I give a damn about the characters. Clichéd killers, stereotypical cops, violence for the sake of violence, and weak, elementary prose seem to be the standard by which we rate. Even recycled concepts like kids who talk to dead people (really?). The less work we have to do to read it, it seems, the better the rating.
Which brings me to my question: What to you constitutes a good pace?
I read one that had a great pace and gave me everything I needed, but that seems the exception, not the rule. I mean, I know James Patterson is always on the look-out for new ghost writers, but is that what we're here for? We may be being honest that it's easier to read those, that they're very readable, but are they necessarily publishable? Guys like Stuart Woods, Robert B Parker, James Patterson (okay, maybe not him, I never could figure out who the hell liked "Thomas Berryman Number") these guys wrote solid stories, with well drawn, original characters and story-telling skill. Then, when they were about guaranteed best-sellers, they cleaned up their stuff and made it lightning fast. But I don't know that anyone would have published "The Professional" if it had been Robert B Parker's first book. I'd have to say they wouldn't have.
So tell me, what's the right pace for you?