Something So Basic…
A little bit back I mentioned a bunch of workshops Kris and I were thinking of offering, and almost everyone said they would like to try “Advanced Pacing.”
Now, that would be really fun for me to try to explain. I knew that, but then I got a bunch of stories in that I needed to read for a workshop. And half of them didn’t know basic fiction manuscript format, even though the rules said the stories had to be sent to me in that form. All of the problem ones had put extra lines between paragraphs, making it just damn near impossible for someone like me (jaded old editor) to read.
An extra space between paragraphs is fine for this blog, and for some nonfiction articles and things. But in fiction a space between a paragraph is a time jump or scene jump. Oh, oh…
Now, in advanced pacing, one of the most important things a writer must learn to control is how a reader goes through the story. And some of that control comes from things like paragraphing in various ways.
Big block paragraphs, extra lines between paragraphs, all paragraphs the same size like you were taught in school shows me you don’t even have basic fiction pacing down yet.
And before even trying to move to the next levels of pacing, start thinking of every detail in your story as part of a whole. Line length, paragraphing, look of the manuscript, everything. And every detail must follow the content of the story, the emotions of the character, the form of action.
You can not do this from critical voice. You must learn it by reading and typing in openings of top bestsellers (stage four writers) and pay attention to what they are doing. Then you just trust your creative voice to add what it has learned into your stories over time.
But first things first. Basic, just basic. Learn manuscript formatting for fiction. William Shunn a while back did a great web site with pictures for those who can’t follow word instructions.
BOOKMARK THIS SITE…. And when I say I want a story in manuscript format, this is how it should look. And it should look like this going to any editor for any project. And maybe then you can start getting to basic pacing and keep learning toward more advanced at some point. But this is the foundation you must know.