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The First Week*: A Question of Pacing

February 15, 2014

* And A Bit

It has now been around a week and a half since I started my novel’s second draft, so think it’s about time I gave a little status report. By now, I was hoping to be on my second chapter, or maybe even my third.  I figured that it wouldn’t take too long to go through the book, so long as I did a small amount of writing or editing each and every day and didn’t get too hung up over the precise wording of things.

I finished my first chapter this afternoon.

There were several reasons for this. Time management – or rather my lack of it – was certainly a factor. Another issue is that I’m now confining my weekday writing to evenings, seeing as my early-morning writing seemed to be adversely affecting my PhD.

Last but not least, however, involved my story itself.

Pacing, I’ve realised, is a major issue in my first draft. When I first started writing this book, I still wasn’t really used to writing big things; thus, I padded things out in a big way, particularly in the beginning. It took over four thousand words to get my big “hook” scene, for instance – far from ideal, to say the least.

The “hook” scene, just to be clear, is the scene with which I intend to draw readers fully into the narrative. It makes the protagonist’s situation clear to the reader for the first time and also reveals a highly important worldbuilding detail, so it was imperative that I reach this scene as soon as possible.  Simply editing my first chapter, I realised, wouldn’t be enough; what was needed, rather, was a complete rewrite.

And that’s what I did.

I mentioned last week that I’d re-written my opening scene; much of this scene is now slated to be in the second chapter, albeit heavily modified. My opening now consists almost entirely of new material, with only a couple of descriptions transplanted from the old beginning. Said new material allowed me to get to my “hook” sequence in only 1550 words – a major improvement, if I do say so myself.

More than ever, I’m starting to realise just how wild a ride this is going to be. I expect I’ll learn more from editing this than I’ve learned from my earlier writing projects combined; presumably, I’ll learn even more from the next draft, and more still from the one after that.  Maybe someday, I’ll learn enough to actually get this novel into a publishable state; wouldn’t THAT be cool?

In the meantime, I’m just going to keep plugging away at things and hope for the best.



From → Blogging, Writing

  1. That’s great to hear! What’s your novel about again? Is it the lesbian drama involving a demonic dwarf?

    Or maybe I’m getting confused again with someone else’s . . .

    • Definitely getting it confused with something else :). Though I kinda wish that was indeed mine; it sounds utterly hilarious.

      My novel is a SF story set on an off-Earth colony, which centres around a family’s dealings with an unusual alien pet. The pet in question is a parasite of sorts – hence my name 😉

  2. SarahClare permalink

    I read somewhere someone saying (im so specific, it’s great isn’t it?) that most manuscripts are made better by cutting tjr first chapter completely.

    I’m not suggesting you do that though!

    A question I always ask myself is ‘if I cut this out, will the plot still make sense?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then generally the section gets cut. CHOP! It’s difficult though because I can often be fooled into thinking im some sort of literary genius and my ego is severely offended by the mention of the word ‘cut’.


    Good luck with it!!!! 🙂

    • I think that’s more or less what I’ve done at this point. Most of my first chapter has been cut completely, and most bits that weren’t cut have been moved to later in the book.

      I’ve started doing something similar with this draft; namely, I make sure I can write down the “point” of a given scene of chapter before I start writing or editing it. If I can’t find a point, then…well, it probably has to go.

      And thanks! Good luck to you, too!

  3. Sounds great. Two (annoying?) questions… Are there mini-hooks to entangle the reader from the opening sentence through 1500 words? Have you ruled out starting with the hook sequence, e.g. because it would have no impact without getting sympathy for the protagonist first?

    • I actually went back over the draft after reading that. I realised that I still had too much description at the start and have now moved most of it elsewhere. It now takes 766 words to reach the hook; says it all, really :).

      To answer your (very much not annoying) questions: I do have some mini-hooks that hint at what’s about to happen, but I don’t think I can start directly with the “hook” sequence. Essentially, I don’t think the scene will work without me first establishing the protagonist in some way.

      Thanks for commenting! Helped me out a lot, that did 🙂

      • Hurrah. Glad it helped. There’s certainly no rule about starting with the hook scene which has more impact if we care about the protagonist. I think I gleaned the idea of ‘little hooks’ from a how-to book by Donald Maass called “Writing the Breakout Novel”. Some excellent tips in it.

  4. THAT would indeed be cool, and I have no doubt you’ll get there. I’m constantly thinking about the scenes/chapters I’ve just written with a craving to g stuck back into them and edit the hell out of them. Part of what keeps me piling through the first draft. Col.

    • Well, here’s to hoping :). And I know what you mean. Whenever I wrote a scene, whether I thought it good or bad, I’d always think about how much better it would be later on. Probably the only way to get through first drafts, that.

      How goes your first draft, in any case? Still going well?

      • Let’s just say it’s going… Word count is fast, but I’ve decided to start a parallel project. I was supposed to just choose the one for after my WIP, but I decided to just outline it in Feb. Then I started writing it.


        Managed to keep up my targets on my main WIP though (despite some family illnesses refusing to get up and go), so a little bit of self-back patting is in order, but mainly because I made such a good start in January. Real challenge has been stopping myself from going back and editing, as I’d say at least a third of what I’ve written is pap – the story is there, but the words (you know, those little, kind-of-important things that make up a book) are so wrong. It does actually seem to be spurring me on to get the first draft finished though so I can go edit the hell out of it.

        Keep it going mate.

  5. Editing is something to be enjoyed, and with today’s digital formats moving great swathes of text around and re-writing parts is soooo much easier than in the old days of pen and paper. Remember, with a draft – however rough – you have the raw diamond to polish. Good luck!

    • Agreed on all counts. I’m so, SO glad I’m doing this in the age of computers. Dunno what I’d do if I had to write it all by hand; it would probably take me 10 years to finish, minimum.

      • Lol. It sure is the best time to be a writer. I just retyped my reply four times, which makes me wonder if we’re just sloppy now knowing it can be edited easily!

  6. Awwww! Don’t beat yourself up about not making as much progress as you’d like to have made by now. Progress is progress, no matter how great or small. At least you recognized the issue and took the time to fix it. Keep it up. 🙂

    You really should read Hillary Rettig’s “The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.” I think we had talked about that book before…?

    • Agreed :). Besides, if I hadn’t taken extra time on Chapter 1 now then I’d have just had to do it later.

      And yeah, we have indeed :). I’ve actually got it on my kindle right now, but I haven’t read all the way through it yet.

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