One nice sentence that cuts to the heart of things and pushes the story forward is worth more than ten pages of crap that’s going to end up on the cutting room floor. That’s what I’ve been telling myself lately, because my new book is coming slowly. We’re talking glacial pace here. I’m not cranking it out the way I did my first one. One reason is I’ve been struggling for time to write. The other is my process this time around seems to be more deliberate. I’m not chasing every strand that strikes my fancy. I have a better feel, right off the bat, for what fits and what doesn’t fit into this story.
Why? I can’t really say. It’s the material, I guess. I’ve got a sharper, more narrow focus. I have a better understanding of my main characters and what they’re after. And that’s a lucky thing, a small blessing.
This snippet of the sound advice novelist Lisa Wingate recently shared via the always-inspiring Women’s Fiction Writers blog is also helping me stay on the narrative straight-and-narrow. Lisa writes what’s popularly called “women’s fiction.” She also writes for the “Christian market.” But I think this advice transcends genre:
“Watch for overbalance of narrative in your writing. Nothing slows down the pace of a story like huge patches of narrative. Narrative produces pages with big, blocky paragraphs that read slowly, and that tend to “tell” rather than “show”. When possible, work story elements into dialog, action, reaction, and short thought sequences, rather than using narrative. For example, rather than describing the main street of your town, have your character walk down Main, greet a neighbor or two, and reflect on a few random childhood memories of people/places. Be careful that you don’t slide down the slippery slope of having characters engage in meaningless chatter designed only to dump information to the reader, but always seek opportunities to work details in naturally during character interactions. Remember that body language speaks volumes, too.”