The point of NaNoWriMo is that you sit down and write without any editing for an entire month in order to generate 50,000 words. For my genre, contemporary romance (sub genre sweet romance–everybody keeps their clothes on), this is almost an entire book. I use this method a lot when I am writing just to get the words on the page and move my story along. I also recommend it to my elementary school students to head off their frustration with complicated grammatical rules. However, this method is not without its hazards.
Pacing is the rate at which a narrative moves through its action. If you have ever listened to someone, or been someone, who is so enthusiastic about the story they are telling that they are spitting trying to get the words out fast enough, that is an example of pacing gone wild. Whether you are the listener or the teller it can leave you badly in need of complete silence and a nap.
When I write without editing, I can barrel through the story I am telling at a breakneck pace. But I am a compulsive editor, and I can only do that for so long before I have to stop and go over what I have written. That’s when I realized that my pacing with Suzanne’s Secrets is way off. In the story, Suzanne is decorating her ex-husband’s mansion, and you don’t have to be a professional decorator to realize that takes some time. Her contract calls for it to be accomplished in six months, which is a reasonable time for her more important relationship journeys to take place.
Last week I realized that, 27,000 words in, all of the considerable amount of action takes place over two days. Two days for complicated interactions with her 1) ex-husband, 2) his wife, 3) her son, 4) her secret love interest, and 5) her “appropriate” love interest, not to mention 6) the revelation of the history of the house and 7) well-developed sketches for her design plans. Two days? I don’t think so. She takes the job in April, is supposed to be finished by September, and the climatic scene takes place at the end of October. What was I thinking!? Make everything important happen in a week, and then start the next chapter with “Six months later…”? Seriously?
This is where craft comes in. It’s time to put on the brakes and fix the pacing. That involves taking out large sections of the story–which I have saved in chunks in a “Bits and Pieces”document–and slowing the whole thing down. This does not mean adding in filler that serves no purpose, but enhancing the reader’s involvement in the story by including more character development and description. This is one of my significant problems as a writer. I tend to tell the story that is playing in my head like a movie, so I can see the characters and settings clearly, but the reader is not seeing that “movie,” and I always have to go back and fill in details. My readers comment that they like my books specifically because they are easy, quick reads, but also that they feel connected to my characters and can see the settings clearly. This does not happen without hard work.
Good storytelling. If it was easy, everyone would do it.