Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

One of the most critical elements to master in writing children's books is PACING.

Children's books must move quickly.

Good pacing is achieved by:
  • Good story structure (setup, development, climax, resolution)
  • Variety (a mix of dialogue and narrative, large and small jumps in time, balance of tension with no tension)
  • Good use of chapter endings and beginnings
  • Eliminating unnecessary sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters
Chapter endings are, in my mind, one of the writers greatest tools. Use the chapter ending to create tension or suspense and to arouse curiosity (which keeps the reader reading).

Use chapter beginnings to jump forward in time, to introduce a new story element (such as a character or a situation), or to change setting.

Unnecessary scenes (or sentences or paragraphs, etc.) include repetitive or too-similar scenes.

Repeat after me:

Resist the urge to repeat yourself.

Repeat after me again:

Resist the urge to repeat yourself.

Repetition dilutes your writing and causes the author to intrude on the story by drawing attention to the writing. Repetition is self-conscious writing.

On the subject of repetition, Sol Stein says, "One plus one equals a half."

If you think the reader won't "get" something unless you repeat it, then maybe you haven't written it right the first time.

On the subject of unnecessary scenes, Kurt Vonnegut says, "Don't put anything in a story that does not reveal character or advance action."

Repetitiveness can also apply to characters. Do two characters fulfill the same purpose?

Is every character necessary? Does each character fulfill a purpose?

And one more time, repeat after me:

Resist the urge to repeat yourself.

Personal experience:
Like everyone else, I learn many of these things through personal experience. In my first novel, Beethoven in Paradise, the main character loves to walk. In the first draft, he went on a LOT of walks. It was a perfect chance for him to think - so I could throw in lots of meaty interior monologue. When all else failed in the story - Martin went for a walk.

My editor commented about that first draft (and I paraphrase here): I thought if that boy went on one more walk I'd go crazy.

I cut out about four good walks and replaced them with four good action scenes.

So, to wrap things up here, repeat after me:

Resist the urge to repeat yourself.


Leslie Davis Guccione said...

once again, you've nailed it.

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

This works for essays, too, where you even avoid repeating words. If you've only got 1000 words to print (which of course means writing about 5000 and deleting 4000), your husband (for instance) has to be also your sweetheart, your mate, your Prince Charming, etc. Thx for reminding me!