“All my life I have got tremendous pleasure out of good story telling, good yarns that have taken me to places I have never been and shown me life styles and periods that I have never known. When I started writing fiction, my impulse was to give the same pleasure to others that I had enjoyed myself.”
Isn’t it wonderful when some incredibly valuable advice about writing comes your way, just when you need it most? That’s exactly what happened to me today. I was in the library working through some revisions for my YA novel. when I came across the latest issue of Writer Magazine. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking it up.
Inside was a feature story on Ken Follett, the best-selling novelist. Best-selling is right: he’s sold more than 130 million copies of his books. One historical novel, Pillars of the Earth, was recently ranked in a survey of readers as number two after To Kill a Mockingbird on a list of all-time fovorite books. Not bad for a guy who wrote 10 novels that went nowhere before he hit pay dirt with his World War II thriller, Eye of the Needle.
Needless to say, I began poring over the story looking for a few writing tips. When Ken started talking about Eye of the Needle, I was rivetted. One thing he said really caught my attention: “The richness of detail slows the writing down, but that was what my work needed. My early books were all too brisk and things happened too quickly. With Eye of the Needle, I got the pace right for the first time. The reader doesn’t want you to be too brisk, especially in a tense, dramatic situation.”
Wow! That comment about slowing the pace down “especially in a tense, dramatic situation” really hit home. My sister and cracker-jack editor Steph has been encouraging me to slow things down in a couple of places — she felt I was rushing the reader and losing some of the impact in certain scenes. Now here was Follett, a master storyteller, saying exactly the same thing!
What great advice! I’m going to go over my manuscript and make sure that I give those big moments some breathing room instead of making them brisk and breathless. How about your work? Could slowing the pace ratchet up the drama and tension?