Being a Better Writer: Pacing – Part II

Don’t forget, Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is out now!

This post was originally written and posted December 15th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Pacing.

If there was ever a topic that I felt needed to be discussed with young writers—crud, or at the very least referenced in a basic high school English education—that sadly seems to be completely overlooked or ignored, it would have to be pacing. A measuring stick of the writer’s toolbox, pacing is a lot like the sextant—an ancient, invaluable tool in many scenarios, but completely ignored by most because they’ve never been taught what it is or how to use it. Worse, there’s no modern equivalent of it such as a GPS to replace it, which means that many simply stumble through their works, never once picking up this ancient ruler and measuring their story with it.

Alright, you’re probably getting the idea. Pacing is important. But what is this “pacing” of which I speak? As I’ve pointed out, it’s something that isn’t really understood or taught to a lot of people. While most young writers have certainly heard the term, the actual application of it often doesn’t come with it. Most more experienced authors will mention the term from time to time—usually with a quick mention of how important it is—but unless you’re attending a panel or workshop on it, hardly anyone ever actually spends time explaining what pacing is, or better yet how to use it.

So then, let’s start with the basics: what is pacing?

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Unusual Events is Out!

Unusual Events

Unusual Events: A ‘Short” Story Collection is now Available!
Click here to get reading!

 

Alaskan adventures. Haunted Hospitals. Something lurking under the kitchen … stove?

Nothing is as it first seems in this new collection of ten thrilling tales from author Max Florschutz. Magic intertwines with the ordinary in five new stories set in the Unusual universe, while in the world of Indrim steam and high fantasy intersect. Elsewhere, men struggle against the elements in the last frontier, a reporter delves deep into the mysteries surrounding her city’s heroic figure, and a young man heads off to war for his people.

Ten fantastic tales of wonder and excitement. It’s nothing ordinary.

It’s Unusual Events.

515 pages.

Stories included in this collection:

The Unusual Universe—
-Flash Point: Life is tricky when you’re a high school student. Doubly so when magic may be involved.
-Monthly Retreat: Life changing events follow Alma in the wake of her trip to South America.
-Kitchen Creature: Something’s lurking under the kitchen … Stove? Two college students square off against their new, Unusual, occupant.
-The Graveyard: Come to Hawaii, take a break, tour the graveyards?
-A Miner Haunting: In light of Jacob Rocke’s latest adventure, he ends up in a hospital, sharing a room with a very unexpected—and dead—individual.

The World of Indrim—
-Ripper: Wrapped in the steam-fueled mists of the Empire’s capital city, a serial killer moves against her next target.

Stories about Alaska—
-Vacation: Come see Alaska! Get up close and personal with its myriad wildlife. Very close.
-Workday: A young teen is dropped blind into a new summer job as a deckhand on a halibut boat.

Other Stories—
-SUPER MODEL: A young woman struggles to be the first to land an exclusive interview with her city’s reclusive superhero.
-For Glory: The Lamanite nation marches to war, and Mathoni with it. But the glories of war are not always what we are promised …

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Being a Better Writer: Unreliable Narrators

Whoo boy. This is what I get for taking requests on topics. Unreliable/untrustworthy/unstable Narrators (from here on out I’ll just call them unstable, but I refer to both). I’ll be honest, I actually held off on this one for a while, waiting until I could crystallize some thoughts on it that felt solid enough to write up. Unstable narrators are a tricky topic, as well as a tricky tool in the writer’s toolbox, and I wanted to make sure that if I tackled it, I had some advice to give.

Well, thanks to some good thinking, as well a recent hands-on experience with using one (not my first, I assure you), I think now is the time.

Unstable narrators. Here we go.

So, simplest place to start: What is an unstable narrator? They’re a PoV character or a narrator (as sometimes a character is not necessarily the narrator) who’s view of things is not entirely correct. We also sometimes call this an untrustworthy narrator.

Simpler? All right. This is a character whose perspective of—or a narrator whose telling of —events cannot be trusted. They are either flavored, faulty, biased, incorrect, or in some other manner not honest with the reader.

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Being a Better Writer: Developing Villains

This post was originally written and posted December 8th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Villains.

Let’s be honest with one another. We love villains. Even when we despise them. Darth Vader’s labored breathing is iconic. Dolores Umbrage’s fascination with kittens an understood attempt at sinister camouflage. The Joker’s fashion sense catches the eye of any comic reader.

We can admit it. In a way, we like villains. Villains are a flavor, a spice, to our worlds and universes, an intricate part of our plotting and scheming for the story at large. And … we know this. This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed villains on this blog. Nor will it be the last. A villain isn’t a needed requirement of any story, but in the event that the story requires one, having a good villain is a key factor, and so understanding how to write a good villain is going to be integral to making sure that whatever you write is as good as you can make it.

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Being a Better Writer: Common Problems with Character Emotion

This post was originally written and posted December 1st, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

After almost a year of doing this, I’ve covered a lot of the more general subjects, so as I was considering what to cover next, I decided that today, I’d dive into some specifics. Something that I have a strong rapport with: realistic characters.

More specifically, we’re going to look how writers handle giving their characters emotions, and where a lot of the common pitfalls occur.

So right from the start, I’m going to assume we’re all on the same page here. We want our characters to have emotion. We want them to be well-rounded, well developed … real, in other words. We want characters who are complex, with multiple facets to their character who remind us of real people. We want a character who seems real. We do not want a flat character.

But the challenge is that writing such a character is quite difficult, and many authors fall into pitfalls along the way. And I’m not speaking of just novice writers out there either, plenty of long-term authors can still be guilty of making any number of these mistakes, falling into traps by either cutting corners or not realizing what they’ve done. And for it, their work suffers. Characters become “props” in a story, interchangeable parts that simply drop into scenes or events to fulfill a purpose.

So let’s look at the earliest traps first—the ones that trip up the youngest writers—before we move on to the more advanced stuff. These are errors that—make no mistake—experienced writers still make, but are more likely to be found in younger writer’s material. Errors that can be easily overcome with a little effort and work, but still manage to trip people up.

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One Million Strong

Normally I wouldn’t be putting up a Sunday post. But this post is different, different enough that I’m going to make an exception.

Last night, I was lying in bed and thinking about writing things (as usual). The release of Unusual Events, work still to do on Colony, plotting for Shadow of an Empire … even the upcoming LTUE convention near where I live (which I will, sadly, apparently not be paneling at this year, though I will likely still attend).

Anyway, as I was lying in bed trying to sleep (and failing utterly because my mind wouldn’t stop rolling along) I realized something. I’ve hit another milestone. A massive one.

One million published words of fiction.

I had to pause and think about it for a moment. The Dusk Guard: Rise? 275,000 words. The Dusk Guard: Beyond the Borderlands? 300,000. Side stories? 115,000 words. One Drink? 33,000 words. Dead Silver? 139,000. And now Unusual Events: 152,000.

Total? 1,014,000 words. As in one million, fourteen thousand words.

Even better? I’m going to almost double that this year. Colony, slated for a May release at the moment, is 325,000 words. Shadow of an Empire isn’t far enough along to have a dedicated length yet, but given that it’s another Epic and I haven’t written one under 250,000 words yet, it seems a safe bet that it’ll be at least 200,000 words edging on 300,000.

The point to all this, aside from me going “Holy smokes, look at what I wrote?” You can do it if you put your mind to it. A million published words in just a few years is feasible if you’ve got the drive. It’s not about the car you own, it’s not about how many workshops you attend or how much you talk about how hard you’ve been working.

It’s the doing. The sitting down and pushing forward. Not giving up or thinking after an hour “I’ll do that tomorrow.” And eventually, as we push forward, we reach the mountain peak.

And then we find the next one to climb.