Pacing and Drafting

gardner fox bastard orleansFollowing up on my post about the strengths of hardboiled fiction I come to the strengths of some of these old historicals. I’m about halfway through Gardner Fox’s The Bastard of Orleans. Maybe the characterization isn’t anything for the ages, but man, am I being swept along by the pace and the surprising turns. Scenes of great color and action, lots of momentum, and plenty of lovely ladies. By page 40 more stuff had already happened than what often happens in a hundred pages or more of modern fantasy stuff. Will I love it as much as I loved The Borgia Blade? I’ll know by the end. Right  now I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

I had it in mind as I was thinking about pacing. I’m always thinking about pacing, but I’ve found myself contemplating it even more in the last few weeks. I’m wrestling with the middle section of my novel and wondering why it’s not fast enough to please me.

I think one of the problems we’ve gotten into is, as I mentioned, a market demand for big fat novels. I tried to buck that trend but the market didn’t like it, so now I’m trying to write novels that, if not fat, are still longer. But I’m also trying to give them the only kind of pacing I can tolerate.

This presents complications. With a longer narrative there’s so much going on that when I switch point of view characters I have to spend a lot of time catching people up on what’s happened. In its first draft, I’d written about fifteen pages of what amounted to a briefing, telling what was about to happen and why the characters were being sent here and what their reactions were. I put the entire draft aside to make changes to novel 1 for about four months, and when I came back I didn’t much care what I found. I cut the scene completely and decided my characters would already be en route towards this mission and just flashback to important moments from the assignment scene… but after I did that it still bored me, so I ended up summarizing.

Yesterday I took a hatchet even to the summarizing to cut it down to its bare bones. On with the adventure!