Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Zumba Moment

I’m heading off to teach a mystery writing class at the Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference on Saturday. I’m a new mystery author, but I’ve studied and learned a lot over the past few years. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned—and learning a thing or two myself.
I’m always a bit nervous when I head off to a conference, so I’ve been thinking about my presentation a great deal—even while huffing and puffing at Zumba class. For those of you who don’t know, Zumba is an aerobic/dance class with a Latin flair. I love it—and am now doing it three times a week.
The thing about taking a class like this at a gym is that sometimes they switch instructors around on you. They all have different routines, approaches, and so on. So, I’ve been sort of having problems with one of the new instructors. I like her. Her moves are fun. Love the music she selects. What is the problem? Why am I not bathed in sweat when I leave her class like in other classes? I began to research by watching the clock.
In my favorite teacher’s class, I’m sweating at five minutes into the class. In the new instructor’s class, I am not really sweating until half way in. And then the level starts to fluctuate—an easier routine, then a harder on, and so on.
The pacing was way off. If I were to compare it to a mystery novel, the murder wasn’t happening until midway through the book. How invested would my “mystery” readers be by that point? Not very. Many readers would have chucked the book after the first few chapters. We hear this time and time again—you have to capture your reader’s attention immediately and work to keep them interested.
But if I hooked my reader in with murder in the first chapter, then didn’t give any clues, or any red herrings until the half-way point in the book, they probably would have not finished the book either.
I think it is a tricky balance—this pacing in a mystery novel thing. Have you, as readers, noticed when it’s “off”? Writers, how do you deal with pacing?


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

What a great analogy, Mollie. I'll have to think about it--how do I tell whether pacing is off? I think I walk away from the book, and when I re-read it, I notice whether there's anything significant happening--any tension. Is there conflict between people? Is there a compromising situation? Is there a reveal? A clue that I've cleverly hidden? All those are "cues" just like your Zumba teacher gives you.

Mollie Bryan said...

Thanks for commenting and the wonderful observations and advice. I sort of feel it as I go along--when I'm writing, you know? If I'm starting to get a little bored with it, I crank it up a bit. Walking away from the book is a really important thing to do sometimes, isn't it?

Chrystle Fiedler said...

Good question! I like this post Mollie!

I wrote to Janet Evanovich years ago when I was just starting and she told me she paces her books by writing a chunk of dialogue, a chunk of action and chuck of inner dialogue. I thought that was an interesting way to look at it.

For me when I write, some other part of my brain takes over and I just go with it. It helps though to have a thorough outline that already makes the story work!

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Wow Chrystle, I'm impressed that you outline. I'm such a pantser! How cool is it to know that Janet got back to you. Thanks for commenting.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I love the analogy, too, Mollie. I do like to make my characters sweat at times!

Mollie Bryan said...

They should all sweat, shouldn't they? Thanks for commenting!

Betty Hechtman said...

I can tell when the pacing is off when my eye glazes over my work. I know it's working when I forget I wrote the stuff and keep reading because I want to know what happens next.