Day 141 – Ending a chapter in suspense

Day one hundred forty-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,100

I ended Chapter Sixteen on a suspenseful note tonight, which leaves me excited to write the beginning of Chapter Seventeen tomorrow. I can’t help but wonder and hope…if while I am writing I feel the suspense and can’t wait to turn the page to continue writing, will readers experience those same feelings?

It is hard to know while in the midst of writing how a reader will feel about a scene. Everyone perceives descriptions differently. Everyone experiences different feelings from the words they read. But suspense? I tend to think that everyone perceives suspense equally.

When a scene is deliberately written to offer the reader some insight into what is coming next and the scene ends before what’s next actually comes, the reader can feel the suspense. That’s what I would like to think, anyway. True or not, I leave for bed happy and charged for writing tomorrow. And that is a good feeling I haven’t had in a while. Thank you, suspense.

Day 137 – One more character was hard to resist

Day one hundred thirty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 550

Just when I thought I was done introducing new characters, I decided to bring in one more. A single, hermit-like, eccentric fellow is now in the mix. And I think he is a good addition. His role will be limited and short-lived, but he will be center stage during the pivotal moments in this scene and the ending.

Since the first draft of this book is nearing completion, I must say that it felt odd to add a character so close to the end. But this guy is going to spice it up and be the catalyst to bring about the ending. In a way, he’s my closer. I would have liked to write more about him tonight, but motherhood calls so I have to wrap it up until tomorrow.

Day 135 – Mountains, coyotes and bears, oh my!

Day one hundred thirty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 500

My writing moved slowly tonight. Partly because I am tired and had trouble keeping my eyes open. That’s nothing new. But it was also due in part to the scene I was writing. I had to stop a few times to do some quick research about winter mountain effects, coyotes and bears. While that might sound like fun (or not), the stopping and starting impacted my flow of writing. It was a disjointed effort to say the least, but in the end it all turned out worthwhile.

The scene evolved into some exciting action, which is always fun to write. This was especially true because I wrote a pack of coyotes into the characters’ experience on a mountain at night. I think it turned out rather cool. Had I not had to stop and start so many times, I think I would have gotten into a groove and written a lot more. While I may not have written a lot, I did get a lot done. And even though the scene isn’t finished, the research for it is. I look forward to diving back into it tomorrow for some more action, this time with a black bear.

Day 127 – Timing isn’t everything

Day one hundred twenty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 700

The flow was disjointed for me tonight. My problem? Timing. Not real world timing, but timing within the story I am writing. I started a new chapter that is partly a re-telling of a scene from another character’s perspective. It is more of an overlap of two scenes, but the point is to tell it from two perspectives. That’s where the difficulty came in. Getting the timing right was harder than I expected.

These two characters are having different experiences in the scene, with the first being actively involved and the other being an observer. They enter and exit the scene at different times. That’s all well and good, except for making the timing work with the rest of each of their respective stories. They each came from somewhere doing something, and after the scene they each have somewhere to go. The timing of all of this is just plain tricky. It made writing the scene twice equally tricky.

I decided to just write the scene now and fix the timing later. It’s not the best solution, but it’s a solution I can make work. It won’t be the case in the end, but for now, timing isn’t everything.

Day 87 – Fast-paced scenes make for fast-paced writing

Day eighty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

I sprung into writing today at the beginning of a fast-paced scene. I have so much fun writing those. One reason they are fun is how the words just fly onto the page. I wrote for under an hour and hammered out 1,200 words without breaking a sweat. I don’t want to say it was easy, but as far as how the writing came to me, it was.

I am always learning about the creative process. I have learned how the fast-paced scenes are the most enjoyable to write, while the slower-paced ones tend feel…well, slower to write. Hello, Captain Obvious. But seriously, I find it interesting that the type of scene I am writing dictates my writing experience. I suppose it is rather silly for me to think otherwise, that my writing experience would be the same no matter what I was writing. I know that it is not. I experience the emotions while I write the characters’ experience of them. I feel it as I write it. If I didn’t, I don’t think it would be very good writing.

Tonight, I wrote a fast-paced scene that was dark, dramatic and uncertain, causing me to feel anxious, nervous and worried. Fight or flight ensued. The words spilled out as I hit the keys, my fingers and focus being driven by anxiety and maybe even some adrenaline. So the words came to me faster and I typed with hyper-speed, banging on the keys with aggressive purpose. I don’t think I ever realized it before, but it is coming clear to me now that my viscerally empathetic responses shape not only my experience of writing a scene, but also what will be the experience of the reader. This is yet another reason to love books, and especially, to love writing them.

Day 64 – Writing action scenes

Day sixty-four of my 365 Day Writing Project

Words: 1,100

I wrote a car chase today. I’m not going to lie, it was a little awkward. I wrote it and afterward felt like I was perhaps not descriptive enough. I could picture the chase unfolding in my mind as I wrote it, but I didn’t feel confident that the reader will get as much out of it. And then I felt like perhaps I didn’t keep the writing concise enough to facilitate the pace I wanted. I was about to go back and edit and re-work the whole thing, but decided to leave it. Write now. Edit later. I’m really trying to live by that rule.

This experience of writing a car chase did make me wonder about how descriptive one needs to be when writing action scenes. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but it seems that there should be a delicate balance between informative description and quick-paced, simple wording. I want the reader to fly along the page, never getting stuck on verbiage so she can feel the accelerated action in the story. Simple language and simple sentence structure, which hopefully lends itself to quick-paced reading. But I also want the reader to understand and fully picture what is happening. I prefer to include some colorful, tickling-the-senses description, but only what is necessary. How to strike that balance is the trick.

Which leads me to the obvious question: In action scenes, which is more important: pace or description?

The answer is both. I found this bit of simple writing advice from Holly Lisle, writer and author, who had this to say about writing action scenes:

Limit extraneous information.

This is not the time to describe the countryside, the weather, or what people are wearing. Concentrate on the main characters, their movements, their five senses, and their emotions as they work through whatever problem they’re facing.

Pull your camera in close.

Let us taste the blood at the corner of the lip, feel the pain of the broken bone, hear the whistling of the blade, smell sweat, see eyes wide with shock, the beads of sweat on upper lips. Sense details create a sense of immediacy and urgency, and make a scene feel faster.

Keep sentences short and clean.

There are times and places for the hundred word sentence, but the fast-paced action scene is not one of them.

Be sharp, short, hard-edged.

Use fragments (sparingly). Kill adjectives and adverbs — be ruthless. You don’t need many, and may not need any. Find good verbs and nouns, and let the scene run with them.

This is good advice to follow, which I will be sure to do for my next action scene. For now, I’m going to resist the temptation to go back and re-write the scene I wrote tonight. Nope, not gonna do it. Write now. Edit later. Good night.