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Laurence O’Bryan on Writing With Pace

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Plotting and Planning

Laurence O'Bryan

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In my last article I wrote about on using emotion in your writing, and it is critical, but even if you have emotion you have to keep people reading. To do that your writing needs to have pace.

So what is pace?

Pace is movement. Pace is driving forward. Pace is action.

If you spend too much time on exposition, back story and detail then you are going to lose pace. Getting the balance right is the tricky part. Consider your genre and your style as you use the following techniques for adding pace to your manuscript.

I once had the letters RUE taped on a small piece of card above my laptop screen. They were put there to remind me to Resist the Urge to Explain. When I first started writing, I used to explain who this person was in my stories, why that person did something and where the others were going later. Now I don’t.

Explanations are boring. In the 21st century a lot of readers want action. They want novels that zip along. They don’t need to know what the characters had for breakfast. Cut back on the explanations. Cut back hard and your readers will thank you. Trust them to fill in the gaps. Assume they are intelligent and that they have great imaginations.

One of the best techniques for keeping the pace moving is by having a good plot. Shakespeare did this, and had great plots. People get killed, people have fights, people even make speeches to skulls in his stories. Something significant happens. You need to have a plot where something happens too. Ken Folett recommends that something significant happens every 3000 words or ten pages. Think about your story in these terms – is enough happening to keep the reader turning the pages?

I know there was a 20th century literary fashion for stories where nothing happens, but if you want a big readership something has to happen. Consider writing your synopsis before you start. This way you will clearly know where your plot is going and where it might sag – before you even start you can ensure your story has a brisk forward motion that will carry your reader along.

If you want advice on plot you might take a look at The Seven Basic Plots by Christoper Booker, 728 pages of detailed plot analysis. He lists Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage& Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth as the basic plots, which most stories are based around. My first novel, The Istanbul Puzzle, is partially a quest and partially about overcoming the monster.

You may also want to look at Joseph Campbell’s master work on myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to understand the role of the hero and the hero’s journey in your story. This is an important work on the role of the hero in all stories, one we often adhere to without realising.

The next technique is called in media res. This simply means starting in the middle of the action. Don’t start your story with a lot of exposition, backstory or filler about who your character is, where he came from or why she is there. Start with the gunshot that changes her life, or at the hospital where her mother is dying, or at the club where she sees her boyfriend dancing with her best friend.

So here we have three techniques for keeping the pace moving: RUE; a solid plot and in media res. Stick to these and your story will have pace.

This post is the second in an expanded series of posts on getting your writing noticed, which I have created specifically for Writing.ie. They will be published over four weeks in the run up to the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle on ebook Dec 3 and in paperback Jan 3rd 2013

Next week I will cover how you can use theme to enhance your work. I hope you enjoy this series – you can see how much of my own advice I apply by reading my books!

About the author

(c) Laurence O’Bryan

Laurence  went to school in south Dublin, drank way too much, studied business, then IT. While a student, he worked as a kitchen porter and lived a rollercoaster existence.

After that he spent ten years working in London. He met his wife there. Soon after their daughter was born they came back to Dublin.

That was in the year 2000. He worked in IT marketing for many years and was made redundant last year, just in time for the publication of The Istanbul Puzzle. That novel has now been shortlisted for Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of 2012.

The Istanbul Puzzle is his first novel to be published. The Jerusalem Puzzle, his second, is coming out January 3rd in paperback and Dec 3rd 2012 in ebook.

In 2007 he won the Outstanding Novel award at the Southern California writer’s conference. That winning novel, on which he worked for six years, became The Istanbul Puzzle. He is a member of the UK Crime Writer’s Association, the Irish Writing Centre, two “live” writing groups in Dublin and online writing communities including Writing.ie. His research takes him all over the world and he still thoroughly enjoys looking at the stars and listening to the stories of strangers.

His website/blog is: www.lpobryan.com

His Twitter name: @LPOBryan

Read also Laurence recommendations for the 7 most useful books when writing fiction, and how he had 133 rejections before getting published!

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