richard harland's writing tips

navbar writingtips US version navbar good writing habits elements navbar US version navbar characs US version navbar story USversion navbar language USversion navbar gettingpublished USversion

 

 
Story
 

 

Other Story Topics

 

1. Beginnings

2.Middles

3.Climax & After

4.Momentum

 


site map
index

 

5. Pacing

 

(i) MAKING TIME PASS

 

Word-time isn’t story-time. A novel can take 1,000 words over an event that lasts 10 seconds, or 10 words over events that last 100 days. My natural instinct is for film-like, moment-by-moment presentation—I write dramatic scenes very easily. I find it harder to move quickly over time, covering days or months or weeks in relatively few words.

authorI guess that’s why the time-span of my stories tends to contract rather than expand. I have no difficulty in making things happen faster, compressing events into a smaller number of days. Most of my novels take place within a couple of weeks, a couple of months at most.

It’s when I have to move quickly over time that I get nervous and start to baulk.

Similarly within dramatic scenes … there are always places where you need to move more quickly over time. Repeated actions, for example. If Harry is setting up a tent on stony ground, you can do a moment-by-moment presentation of the difficulty of driving a tent peg in—searching for a convenient crack, cursing, swinging the mallet. Fine. But there are still at least another three tent pegs to deal with. Do you really want to go through the same moment-by-moment presentation again and again?

There’s a similar problem when characters are walking across a landscape and encountering strange sights—which is a very common scenario for fantasy writers. The trouble is the length of walking-time between a first distant impression and a final close-up. All the way, the impression keeps coming clearer—but how many moments of coming clearer do you want? You need a way of moving quickly to the close-up.

I know only two basic strategies for moving quickly over time. One is to tell the passage of time, the other is to let time lapse in gaps.

 

 

OTHER PACING TOPICS

 

(ii) LETTING TIME LAPSE

(iii) TELLING OVER TIME LONG TERM

(iv) TELLING OVER TIME LOCALLY

(v) PACING IN CHAPTERS

 
 

next

 

   
 
 
 
Copyright note: all material on this website is (c) Richard Harland, 2009-10
 
 
Copyright note: all written material on this website is copyright
1997 - 2010 Richard Harland.