Sera

Q: Writing and sense of pacing

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I can't seem to fall into the right emotional state to write; the act of writing doesn't flow right for me. I don't have the faintest clue how my prose will read until I actually read it, because as I write, I have this disruptive, nagging feeling that the pacing is all wrong.

It only grows worse if I ignore it, resulting in hushed passages. Writing itself becomes a rocky and unpleasant experience. I always end stopping from time to time to read what I just wrote and make sure mood and pacing are right. Often it's okay enough, sometimes it's so right I find myself surprised, since it felt completely off when I wrote it.
 
Is that inexperience talking? Does anyone else feel this way? Are there any tricks to immediately counter it, or do I need to learn to accept I can't conciliate writing and reading pacing and move on?

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I think every writer has doubts about what they're writing, but it's rare that I've heard someone complain that they're paranoid about so specific a style choice as pacing.

Personally, pacing is usually something I don't worry about while writing a first draft, and think more about in the editing phase after I've let the work sit idle for a little bit and have a chance to read it through, but I don't think "ignore that feeling" is the kind of advice you're looking for. It's probably not even the kind of advice you could heed if you wanted to. You can't help what you feel.

 

If what you need is experience, then keep writing. I would say try to write through the bad times, and try to see if there are specifics things that you can establish as a writing-time routine to relax you so you worry about it less (being in the right location, having the right person or pet around, having the right drink next to you, having the right background music, having the right candle or incense burning because there's a scent that soothes you).

If you're missing confidence, have you shown your writing to others? If not, would you consider it? Having positive feedback can do wonderful things for your writerly self-esteem. Also, if your pacing is off, having experienced writing advice can help you avoid pacing errors in the first place and maybe give you more confidence in your abilities. You'd be very welcome at the Reading Excuses forum here, if you want to get some feedback on what you've created so far. We don't bite.

 

My opinion, having not read any of your writing, is that you're probably better than you think you are. If you're conscious about a thing like pacing (or spelling, or sentence structure, etc.) then your pacing is probably better than that of people who don't think about it at all.

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My first reaction (and forgive any repetition of Shrike, but I always comment first and read comments after), but I tend to think it is maybe inexperience and a touch of lack of confidence speaking.

I think everyone has a subconscious sense of the rhythm of events and dialogue, action and reaction, and that the important thing is to write, even if you cover a thousand words or two thousand and find that there are changes you want to make on a read-back.

To me, it's all practice. I wonder if you are worrying too much about trying to make each scene 'perfect', when we all have to accept that it never is. I'm sure many professionals would agree that their first drafts are not pefect either. It's maybe more a case, through continuting to write as often as you can, of learning to let go of the perceived need in earlier drafts, and just learn to write before you learn to edit and polish.

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My opinion, having not read any of your writing, is that you're probably better than you think you are. If you're conscious about a thing like pacing (or spelling, or sentence structure, etc.) then your pacing is probably better than that of people who don't think about it at all.

I agree, and I woulld be very intersted to read some of you writing and try to help. Also, it might be of some benefit for your to read some of the other pieces on Reading Excuses, to see what people in a similar position are writing. There are a range of abilities on RE and critiquing can provide the reader with a boost, leading to a discovery that you are much more proficient than maybe you are willing to give yourself credit for.

Come pay us a visit :)

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I think every writer has doubts about what they're writing, but it's rare that I've heard someone complain that they're paranoid about so specific a style choice as pacing.

Hahaha! It seems reasonable to focus only on a couple of things each revision. I feel pacing is structural enough to deserve a spot in the first draft, since I already know where my stories are going.

 

I think everyone has a subconscious sense of the rhythm of events and dialogue, action and reaction, and that the important thing is to write, even if you cover a thousand words or two thousand and find that there are changes you want to make on a read-back.

It's hard to put the exact issue into words when I'm not sure myself what's happening. Like most readers I can tell a clunky paragraph from a good one by using my innate sense of rhythm. It's the glaring absence of this sense when writing that bothers me.

 

Any pacing my work has is result of conscious decisions. Because writing takes longer than reading (I eat books!) this misleading impression that the pacing is off ends filling the void, even if by logic I know it's probably not.

 

 

I agree with you both. It seems to be inexperience, or rather the lack of reassurance experience provides. I wondered whether this was a common issue or a personal quirk. If it were common so would be the short term strategies—these you rely upon to keep writing long enough to acquire the so needed experience. Once I hit the "saturation point" my writing becomes rather flat, and it's annoying to waste time fixing it later.

 

I've been lurking in Reading Excuses (shh!). Thanks for the invitation! Perhaps I'll join just to, you know, get a better idea of what the critiques are about, hah. I wouldn't submit so soon, though, I'd have to do an editing pass on what I've been writing, and I don't want to tempt my inner editor before reaching a specific milestone.

Edited by Sera
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I wouldn't submit so soon, though, I'd have to do an editing pass on what I've been writing, and I don't want to tempt my inner editor before reaching a specific milestone.

We'd be very pleased to review whatever you have. We read all sorts of submissions, some clearly hot off the press without any polishing or revision. It might help put a finger on your difficultly if we were looking at the raw material. As Shrik said, we most certainly don't bite, but I trust you would get an honest and hopefuly useful reaction and comments about the specific issues you're concerned about.

Whatever you think. As I suggested, why not try critiquing before you submit (which is the usual way of RE in any case).

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I agree with you both. It seems to be inexperience, or rather the lack of reassurance experience provides. I wondered whether this was a common issue or a personal quirk. If it were common so would be the short term strategies—these you rely upon to keep writing long enough to acquire the so needed experience. Once I hit the "saturation point" my writing becomes rather flat, and it's annoying to waste time fixing it later.

 

It's probably a personal quirk, but I wouldn't be surprised if you find others who share it.

I definitely have a hard time turning off my internal editor when writing. Unless I have a lot of stuff in my head for the current or upcoming paragraphs and I'm worried that if I don't hurry I'll forget it all, I'm usually writing a few sentences and then seeing quickly how they read before moving on.

I don't do it out of any sense of fear, I'm just looking to see if what I wrote down matched what I was thinking in my head, like when you're telling someone something and you pause to ask "Did that make any sense?". I suppose if I have a fear, it's that I've possibly written something so nonsensical that when I'm editing I won't even know what the sentence was supposed to look like in the first place, but that's very rare and more common when I'm exhausted or just not into the writing.

In your case, just from the way that you describe your writing, and your sense of knowing when your writing has become flat, I think you're probably better than you give yourself credit for. These are not skills every new writer possesses. These are not skills some writers I've met who have been tinkering for decades possess.

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Update: I'm training myself to use the plot progression in the place of the whacked missing sense. It's so obvious I wanted to simultaneously laugh and facepalm when I realized that.

 

 

We'd be very pleased to review whatever you have. We read all sorts of submissions, some clearly hot off the press without any polishing or revision. It might help put a finger on your difficultly if we were looking at the raw material. As Shrik said, we most certainly don't bite, but I trust you would get an honest and hopefuly useful reaction and comments about the specific issues you're concerned about.

Whatever you think. As I suggested, why not try critiquing before you submit (which is the usual way of RE in any case).

 

Sure. I'm still digging through the welcome topic and all subtopics, but I'm aware of the rules and good practices.

 

I've been part of very few mailing groups, all of them handled by a third part software (Google, Yahoo). Reading Excuses seems to be different. I have a small logistics question, if one of you two don't mind: I suppose the submissions sent to the main e-mail are forwarded to the rest of the list as BCC (blind copies, no mailing list users addresses exposed). But what about the original sender address, the one submitting the story?

I'd pick a different e-mail address to join depending on how it's done. 

 

Oh, and I have two good reasons for revising before sending: 1. Dialog isn't my priority in the first draft, and I'm a master of contrived conversations, and... 2. The first draft isn't in English. =P

 

 

It's probably a personal quirk, but I wouldn't be surprised if you find others who share it.

I definitely have a hard time turning off my internal editor when writing. Unless I have a lot of stuff in my head for the current or upcoming paragraphs and I'm worried that if I don't hurry I'll forget it all, I'm usually writing a few sentences and then seeing quickly how they read before moving on.

I don't do it out of any sense of fear, I'm just looking to see if what I wrote down matched what I was thinking in my head, like when you're telling someone something and you pause to ask "Did that make any sense?". I suppose if I have a fear, it's that I've possibly written something so nonsensical that when I'm editing I won't even know what the sentence was supposed to look like in the first place, but that's very rare and more common when I'm exhausted or just not into the writing.

In your case, just from the way that you describe your writing, and your sense of knowing when your writing has become flat, I think you're probably better than you give yourself credit for. These are not skills every new writer possesses. These are not skills some writers I've met who have been tinkering for decades possess.

 

Thankfully I can more or less keep my editor side in check by making good use of (hidden) notes and highlight in my text editor. It has been working wonderfully so far!

 

About flat writing recognition, it's a reflection of my taste. Another quirk, though this one might work to my advantage. It's a potential strong point, you can bet I'll be putting some work into it to turn it into a hook.

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I've been part of very few mailing groups, all of them handled by a third part software (Google, Yahoo). Reading Excuses seems to be different. I have a small logistics question, if one of you two don't mind: I suppose the submissions sent to the main e-mail are forwarded to the rest of the list as BCC (blind copies, no mailing list users addresses exposed). But what about the original sender address, the one submitting the story?

I'd pick a different e-mail address to join depending on how it's done. 

 

It's a distribution list, so you send out your submission and everyone gets the email showing up as though it was directly from you with the header information intact. If you want anonymity, I recommend you use or create a separate account for Reading Excuses.

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It's a distribution list, so you send out your submission and everyone gets the email showing up as though it was directly from you with the header information intact. If you want anonymity, I recommend you use or create a separate account for Reading Excuses.

 

Thank you! I didn't want to inadvertently divulge my personal e-mail address. That's for family and close friends alone.

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