Winning The Race

As you can see, I’ve changed my blog into a website with a blog component.  I did so to facilitate sales of my books now that Spirit Legend is out there and selling.  Feel free to check out the page Florence’s Books that leads you to the buy links of both Amazon and Smashwords if you want to see what the old lady’s writing is like.

But, not to worry, I’ll still post with tips on writing fiction.  Not as often as previously because there are only so many tips I’ve learned over the years.  But they’ll still come.  Which leads to today’s tip:  Pacing.

I’ve read a lot of books lately because their authors’ asked me to review them.  For the most part, they were good books and well written.  But, with the exception of two of them, the pacing could have been improved.

They weren’t jagged.  They weren’t abrupt.  They simply kept the same pace throughout the book.  And that was their mistake.

Because writing fiction is like running a race.  A long race if it’s a book because, in the case of stories, novels are equivalent to distance races.  (If you are interested, my book Wanted Sharpshooter is about distance races for horses, something one of my daughters is involved in that I find fascinating.)

Anyway, in distance races, the runners start out slow and careful, conserving their energy and learning all they can about the race itself.  Who’s in it, what they are like, what the course is like.  Everything.  And they stay that way until they know the finish line is getting close.  Then they speed up.  They pay less attention to the other runners and the course itself in order to concentrate their efforts on running faster.  On sprinting to the finish line.

Writing fiction is like that.  The closer you get to the end of the book, the faster the pace of writing should be.  Forget those long conversations among characters that, in the beginning, were both wonderful and provided insights into the characters and the story.  Forget the descriptions that go on and on and on, no matter that the setting is incomparable and essential to the characters getting where they need to be.

Instead, write tight as you approach that finish line.  Eliminate everything except that sprint to the finish.   Because the reader now should know the essential details about the characters and the story and should be caught up in the action and shouldn’t be distracted by any unnecessary words.  Or sentences.  Or paragraphs.  Those details that are necessary should be provided in capsule form.  In as few words as possible.  So the reader doesn’t wish the writer would stop leading them through fields of unnecessary prose and would get them to the finish line in the shortest time.

So they can win the race.

Characters

A while back I took a course on creating characters from a duo who are very respected in the writing field. I was all fired up because I wanted to learn how to create memorable characters. That’s what the brochure promised. Memorable characters.
The course turned ou to be everything the brochure promised. And it was all wrong for me.
I was told to dig down, drill down, do whatever was needed to get inside my character’s head and find that horrible, terrible, tragic or whatever other awful adjective I could come up with that caused a visceral, negative change in my characters and led to the motivations behind their actions in my story.
Problem was, I don’t particularly like horrible, terrible, tragic or whatever other awful adjective I could come up with in my main characters. I like normal.
Perhaps because I had a normal childhood. Perhaps because at one time I taught emotionally disturbed children and learned that, though most people have bad experiences, they get past them and become normal once more. Usually it takes a lot of work, but they do. I believe in that, I passionatly believe that normal triumphs over abnormal.
Whatever the reason, I choose not to write about tragic, terribly, horribly flawed characters.
So what to do?
There’s another way to find characters. Wonderful characters. Normal characters. Alfred Hitchcock used it. He wrote stories about normal people in abnormal situations. Anne Macffrey used it. Her pithy description of how to plot a story goes something like this: ‘Jack has his fanny in a bear trap and the story is getting him out.’
I like those kinds of characters. I can relate to Jack, a nice, normal boy who, unfortunately, is in a bear trap. I think most people out there can relate to him, too.
Normal people in abnormal situations. Great characters. Great stories.

Florence Witkop

When Dreams Do Come Truebook cover universeWANTED: SHARPSHOOTERnovel... Spirit Legend... cover picture

Veteran romance writer Florence Witkop was born in the city and has lived in the suburbs, the country and the wilderness where she still lives and writes contemporary, sci/fi and fantasy romances with a gothic feel that are romantic without being erotic. At various times she’s been a confession writer, a copywriter, a ghost writer and an editor. Her preferred format is the short story but she also writes novellas and novels.

CRITICISM

Sorry, folks.  I wrote this post and it disappeared.  Don’t know where it went.  Don’t know how.  Just that it’s lost somewhere in cyberspace.  So, here it goes again.  Hope this time it stays.  Of course, this won’t be a literal repeat of my first post but it’ll be the gist of it.  It’s about criticism.  (Is that why it disappeared?  Hmmmm.)

One of the nice things about being a ghost writer and writing confession stories is that there is no criticism because they are written anonymously.  No author name, no criticism.  Doesn’t work that way when your name is on the manuscript.  All kinds of people let writers know what they did right.  And wrong.

I once took a commercial story I’d written to a literary writers’ group I belonged to.  They critiqued my manuscript and their criticism would have been very appropriate if I’d wanted my story to be published in a literary journal.  But I didn’t.  I never again took a commercial story to them to be critiqued because I knew that if I followed their suggestions, I’d have a very short career as a writer.

I’ve also had my work critiqued by editors.  Occasionally, when I’d send in a manuscript, it would be returned with scribbed notes in the margins letting me know what subtle things they were looking for that I hadn’t provided.  Believe me, I listened and the next time I sent those editors a manuscript, they got what they wanted because I wanted to be a professional writer.

Next time someone critiques your work, ask yourself some questions.  Who are they?  What’s their background? Why did they say what they did?  Consider whether they are giving criticism that’s valid for your particular work.

Because maybe their criticism was valid.  Maybe not.