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I Think It's A Mistake To Cut Content If The Pacing Is Off (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
In fact, I think more content should be added in a lot of cases. It's too easy to think you're taking too long to get to the plot points and simply cut content when you real problem could be a failure of the writing itself. So my immediate reaction to any suggestions of pacing issues isn't to cut, it's to rewrite and add.

This has to be the case because it's the only thing that makes logical sense. If you read any published authors, there are often scenes that spread over many pages with very little actually happening in terms of plot but it's still riveting and nobody thinks twice about it. In contrast, I can write a quarter of what they've written and get advised to remove content. That's a failure on my part. I haven't 'engaged' the reader and in order to rectify that, I need to add more, deepen the meanings, the characters, the situation and put the reader 'there'.

Cutting immediately when advised would mean never learning to write more engagingly and relying heavily on plot points to carry the day. For me a story isn't about the big events, it's about the build up and journey there. Without good build up the big events don't carry any real weight. They end up just moments to 'spice things up'.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
When reading critique of my work I almost never pay much attention to suggestions like, 'you need to cut something here' or 'you need to expand on this' or 'you need to add description.' Too often critics want you to write like they do. I do listen when I am told, 'this doesn't work for me' or 'I find this confusing.' That's because the result of my writing belongs to the reader and if they are unsatisfied then I've done a poor job. But, the process of getting to that result is mine alone.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
I think it probably depends on the specific situation. My revision drafts that were intended to fix pacing issues were very much focused on cutting extraneous details (those that distracted from the main characters and their arcs or convoluted the plot), combining strung out details (again resulting in cuts), and even cutting entire scenes that weren't working hard enough (and finding another way to insert the relevant details).

I did that to varying degrees in my second, third, and fourth drafts. But I also added new content into each of those drafts. I did a lot more adding content in the second draft (including a rewrite of the first fifty pages), while the third and fourth drafts had both cuts and additions.

After each draft was finished, I was able to get a better view of what was serving the whole of the story well and what wasn't. At the same time, it was easier to see what was missing. My word counts went from 130K to 145K to 129K to 127K (still a bit too long, but it's pretty tight.)

So I do agree with you, sometimes you need to add things to fix pacing... but in my own experience, you (me) also need to cut. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
When reading critique of my work I almost never pay much attention to suggestions like, 'you need to cut something here' or 'you need to expand on this' or 'you need to add description.' Too often critics want you to write like they do. I do listen when I am told, 'this doesn't work for me' or 'I find this confusing.' That's because the result of my writing belongs to the reader and if they are unsatisfied then I've done a poor job. But, the process of getting to that result is mine alone.
That is the main reason I've learned to critique on a craft basis. I do listen to the 'you need to cut' or 'you need to expand' though. I just don't take it immediately to heart. It's not my go to solution.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
I think it probably depends on the specific situation. My revision drafts that were intended to fix pacing issues were very much focused on cutting extraneous details (those that distracted from the main characters and their arcs or convoluted the plot), combining strung out details (again resulting in cuts), and even cutting entire scenes that weren't working hard enough (and finding another way to insert the relevant details).

I did that to varying degrees in my second, third, and fourth drafts. But I also added new content into each of those drafts. I did a lot more adding content in the second draft (including a rewrite of the first fifty pages), while the third and fourth drafts had both cuts and additions.

After each draft was finished, I was able to get a better view of what was serving the whole of the story well and what wasn't. At the same time, it was easier to see what was missing. My word counts went from 130K to 145K to 129K to 127K (still a bit too long, but it's pretty tight.)

So I do agree with you, sometimes you need to add things to fix pacing... but in my own experience, you (me) also need to cut. :)
The point I'm making is you shouldn't automatically cut because there's a large chance you need to add or you've not written it well. Take my novel and the intro scene which is just shy of 2,000 words (4 pages). In that we are introduced to Yarrod and get an idea of his fatalistic demeanour. We get a full description of him during the journey across the desert. We find out he has amnesia. We find out he's pursued by a storm and that he hunts Dannuk, and we also find out a little about the Dannuk. We find out he has a magical gun called Sorrow and that is has some control over him. We are introduced to Stitch, his crow companion that can talk. We find out about a character called Annabel, connected in some way by a red handkerchief.

There's a lot of information there interspersed with small actions. There's more than enough to warrant 2,000 words. I wanted the reader to 'feel' the journey across the desert as well as read it. I've been told many times it needs shortening. It doesn't. It's a failure on my part to write an engaging opening scene. I need to rethink, not simply cut.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
The point I'm making is you shouldn't automatically cut because there's a large chance you need to add or you've not written it well. Take my novel and the intro scene which is just shy of 2,000 words (4 pages). In that we are introduced to Yarrod and get an idea of his fatalistic demeanour. We get a full description of him during the journey across the desert. We find out he has amnesia. We find out he's pursued by a storm and that he hunts Dannuk, and we also find out a little about the Dannuk. We find out he has a magical gun called Sorrow and that is has some control over him. We are introduced to Stitch, his crow companion that can talk. We find out about a character called Annabel, connected in some way by a red handkerchief.

There's a lot of information there interspersed with small actions. There's more than enough to warrant 2,000 words. I wanted the reader to 'feel' the journey across the desert as well as read it. I've been told many times it needs shortening. It doesn't. It's a failure on my part to write an engaging opening scene. I need to rethink, not simply cut.
I guess my point was (and I only have my own experience to go on), I found that a combination of adding and cutting was needed to fix the pacing (amongst other things), so yeah, I agree with you. Thinking that just cutting from something is going to fix it doesn't really make sense. There are a lot of complexities involved in revision, especially given the wide range of effective ways to write.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
It's the Filler Thread again. :) Like I keep saying, a good author can spend a page on eating breakfast and make it interesting.

A little secret is that perfect pacing is never necessary. I read very few books that don't have sections I think are moving more slowly than I'd prefer. I keep reading anyway, and so does almost every reader. Those sections are included by name authors, and readers will either enjoy it or have the patience to weather it. It's places like this that subjects like pacing get the most discussion, and most of that discussion is a lot of hand wringing. "Too fast" pacing happens when authors worry, unnecessarily, that the reader will give up on more relaxed content.

When you eschew the relaxed content, it puts too much pressure on your red-letter plot points. As they come closer together, and you realize in panic that you're not meeting your word budget, then you try to force in extra action which may do more to interfere with your plot than carry it.

Yeah, it can be carried to extreme. I gave up on a series where the authors eventually decided to harangue me with chapter after chapter of the minutia of a history when only the broad strokes had any meaning to the story. But a few paragraphs or even a few pages here or there isn't a big deal. Take the time to settle readers into scenes. At the same time drop in extra details that define your characters and their activities.

I'm in the middle, right now, of a short scene where two brothers are having lunch before the BIG MEETING. The scene is not essential, but I want a bit more character definition before I mix my MC in with a couple of important supporting characters. If you pay attention to this feature of traditionally published novels, you may surprise yourself at just how relaxed the majority of the content is.
 
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