Pacing the Narrative

I’m quite aware of the fact that the bulk of my writing life has been spent pondering, plotting and developing plot, narrative and characters – I have the notebooks, legal pads and flash drives full of folders to show for it. Of course I’m also quite aware that I’ve devoted much of the blog entries musing about character development, and quasi-vague statements regarding the stories I’m currently writing/plotting, so in theory I have amassed several dozen narrative stories and several scores of characters – which is quasi-true. There’s even a plethora of (mostly unfinished) chapters to (mostly unfinished) stories and characters that are shadows of themselves – though most of these have gone in to the “vault” (akin to a songwriter’s “trunk” from which half-finished or finished-but-doesn’t-really-fit-anywhere songs are kept), hopefully to be used at a later date.

Over the years of plotting, pondering and (occasionally) writing the narrative, I’ve always  (or at least usually) focused on the overall (macro) sequence of events – how each novel builds upon the over the course of the series/saga, as well as how the actions of one generation affects their descendants. I’ve spent a good amount of time (probably more than I should have) pondering plot points, figuring out sequence of events and possible tangents a narrative could venture, along with musing about characters and their exposition and relationship to one another. Much of the aforementioned pondering and musing have been on a macro level, from one novel to another, and between series within the saga (to the point of drafting a general timeline of major events with the series/saga), and not (yet) on the micro level, that is the exact pacing within a novel.

All of which leads me to this quasi-rambling post about pacing the narrative, both on a macro and micro level [once upon a time I had thought of pursuing a career in finance, but those thoughts soon faded in favor of writing]. While I have written / sketched out the overall plot of any given novel, I’ve never really focused on the chapter breakdown within a single novel. I’m quite an avid reader of many literary genres, and there does seem to be a plethora of options to undertake when figuring out the pacing of the story – some novels unfold within a single day, while others take years to tell their tale.

Considering that the MASC Chronicles as a whole is to span over several centuries (albeit with jumps in time along the way), and each series within the saga is to span several years (or at least that’s the aim), the question of how to pace each novel within the series within the saga is somewhat of a puzzlement. If the pacing is too slow, then the momentum of the overall story arc is lost, and has the potential of meandering into side tangents; on the other hand, if the pacing moves too quickly, some of the nuances are lost and confusion can occur.

Hmm… when I started to write this blog entry, I thought I was going somewhere with this topic, but now that I’ve come this far, I’m not quite sure where this entry is going [as a minor disclaimer, I do tend to write these as a stream of consciousness, of whatever pops into my head, and usually post them as is, with not too much editing].

I’m sure there was a point to writing this, but I suppose this week’s entry is to be more a rambling, nonsensical one. though on a side note, I’m quite diligent in posting an entry each week since I started this blog a few months ago – I suppose I had thought then that by now I’d be able to share samples of my writing endeavors or at least expound more on the overall plot and discuss character traits or something.

Then again, as an introverted writer (is there any other kind?)  I’m hesitant to post any of my fictional writing, being overly sensitive  and self-conscious, wary of criticism (again, traits I’m sure just about every writer shares). I do hope to overcome this hurdle some day, but as for now I’m still stuck in the land of plotting and character building, with short forays down the trail of narrative writing.

Maybe some day when I have the time (or when I find the right inspiration) I’ll write a meta novel about plot bunnies, Muses and other aspects on the Art of Writing.

But for now, it’s back to figuring out a semblance of a narrative arc for the novel(s), series and saga.

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3 thoughts on “Pacing the Narrative

  1. Don’t feel bad. I’m working on getting my book published right now and still haven’t mentioned a single word on my blog as to what it’s actually about (which makes me wonder if people actually READ what I say on there, haha). That will come soon, but comfort is comfort and discomfort is discomfort.
    I’ve noticed that when I type things up (or even post them) on here and am not comfortable with them, they go in the ‘trash’. This is your blog, and you should post whatever you feel comfortable posting. I believe you’ll find that comfort level one day. 🙂

    As for pacing, I’ll agree – that really is a tricky one. It’s sort of like the insta-love that happens in a lot of books. For the author, it might not seem like it happens so quickly (if many events transpire in a short amount of time), but from the reader’s perspective, it ends up just seeming silly, unbelievable, and ridiculous.
    Being a ‘pantser’, pacing is a difficult thing, as I just write and see what comes out (filling out the timelines after the series is complete and I’m doing the first edit to ensure it’s both feasible and consistent). I would say this is definitely another instance where being a plotter has its benefits, because you are essentially so much more in control of the way things play themselves out and can ultimately have the final say in how long one event (or the entire thing as a whole) takes to come to a head.

    But even still . . . it’s tricky.

    By the way, I LOVE the word nonsensical. It holds a special place in my heart due to Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knightley version – I probably misspelled her name, but I don’t really care that much).

  2. Hopefully – I rarely edit what I write in this blog anyway, and sometimes I forget what I had written before, so sometimes I might have repeated myself or used the same analogy.

    As for the pacing, I’ve toyed with the idea of having jumps in time [whether or not they are linear jumps has yet to be determined] in the narrative, instead of the [seemingly] conventional compression of narrative time unfolding from hour to hour, day after day…

    Well, there’s actually the illusion of control over the ways turn out – a minor pantser rebellion has arisen within the realm of the plotter, bringing forth ideas and distractions that could detail the narrative flow…

    Oh crap – there goes another potential story/series arc to add to the list of “stories need to write”.

    Good times.

    • HAHA!
      Pantsing is so fun – at least at first, before you have all the stress of making things line up. Even then, it’s still fun in its way. I’ve tried plotting things out before, but after having the full realization that I am merely a means to an end for my characters (just getting the story out and having no say in it), I decided not to even attempt it again past being firm that certain major events WILL happen if I have any say in it at all.
      I’d be curious to see how you pantsing would turn out!

      I repeat myself all the time (even when I’m speaking to people in RL), so I understand. lol

      Time-travel is something I’ve only BRIEFLY contemplated doing in a series. I can’t figure out any way to make it feasible, or to keep control over it (I have a hard enough time with things being ENTIRELY linear! haha). I will leave that to better minds. I’m sure you could pull it off. 🙂

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