Music comes to mind when I think about pacing. Pacing is the basic rhythmic unit in a piece of music, the arranging of sounds in time through harmony, melody, rhythm, and timbre, to create a composition. I watched my mother sing and play her violin as her friend accompanied her on piano before a performance. They would jot notes on their sheet music and try again to get it exactly like they wanted it.
Pacing is hugely important in sports. I spent years on an ice rink, trying to perfect jumps and spins with only a few lessons. Ice Capades was never my goal, fortunately, because I was too impatient to invest time or money on advanced classes. I remember my instructor telling me to slow down, think through the process, pace myself, while I just wanted to jump and spin for the fun of it. He reminded me that if I wanted a skating partner, which I already had, I needed to learn to skate with precision.
And then there’s pool. Not the water kind of pool, but billiards. I loved to shoot pool so much that I took two quarters of it at Ohio State. Men don’t like women to beat them at pool, which is why I entered a tournament with all men and then played well enough to win the trophy. My instructor suggested I try another sport after I beat her too. I finally learned to pace myself, not rush my shots. I chalked my cue the proper way before every shot, making me look like I knew what I was doing. Having a plan and choosing patterns is the key to stringing together multiple table runs. When Cliff and I bought our second house, it had an original pool table in the basement, one with a green felt top and leather pockets. It was a sad day when we moved and left the table behind.
Pacing is something that every writer needs to get right or suffer the consequences of running into a blank wall. Since I don’t outline, I’ve had a few of those black holes, as I call them. As Michael stated in his blog on Monday, a story’s pace is linked to the three- act structure. In the first act, your characters are introduced and at least one crime is committed. I always have subplots and red herrings, and elaborate on them in act two. Act two is where I fumble, and sometimes fall dead in the water, without an outline, but eventually something totally unexpected occurs, making the story even better than if I’d planned the whole story out. It’s those moments that excite me most.
Act three is where you wrap up your subplots and the conflicts come to a head. The climax! And a sigh of relief that you finished your story. Several years ago I bought Martha Alderson’s Scene Tracker kit. Since I don’t outline, I thought it would help me advance the plot of the story. I tried it until I got caught up in so many details I never got to the end. It is a great kit, but probably for someone with more patience than I have. Maybe I’m too old to change.