The Page a Day Writers Group

Weeks Five and Six: a) Pacing and b) What Does Agave Want Most?

Posted on: July 18, 2011

Tonight marks the seventh online chat in my class with Kathie Giorgio (http://www.allwriters.org/on_line_classes.asp#BOOK-WRITING WORKSHOP). I’m behind in my review of lessons learned from weeks five and six, which I will recap here.

Hmm… was it me that said my story was leaping along like a gazelle? Sometimes, in my effort to “go deep,” I worry that my story is waddling up a steep hill like a land-locked penguin. The. Pace. Feels. Slow. My inner penguin wants to jump in, soar at superglide speed through the depths, and emerge at a new exciting destination with a polished jump, landing on two feet and smiling. But that’s not how it seems to work for me in Rewriting Land.

Animalistic metaphors aside, in order to go deep, I need to link arms with my main character Agave as she wrestles with inner demons and the world at large. I need to feel complete freedom to overwrite the parts that I underwrote before in my even rougher draft, knowing that after this fair-to-middling draft is finished, I will go through it again and delete with vigor. With a nod to Stephen King, I’ll need to kill those darling phrases that were such fun to write but don’t move the story forward or serve much purpose in getting to know my characters. Even so, these bits of fluff are important just to clear out of the system and, if nothing else, serve to strengthen the nest of writing practice.

As Jane Smiley said in a 2006 Writer’s Digest interview (I find these author interviews full of hope and wisdom so I keep back issues for moments when I need a boost), “…What [a novelist] is really interested in is … what it feels to be alive. How it feels moment-by-moment going through a certain experience.” So, I’ll continue to go deep—and slow—during this rewrite, hoping the nuggets will emerge from the rough.

First, the Pat on Back report: I seem to be strengthening my point-of-view skills, for the most part. Also, I rewrote a section to fill in gaps about Carlos, Agave’s love interest. And jiggedy-jig, my rewritten scene was met with cheers!

Critical feedback from weeks five and six centered on plot inconsistencies and missing details. My main character’s motivations have also been questioned by a couple of class participants.

Their questions lead me to admit that I’m struggling with a major plot question: whether to make my main character’s quest a person-to-person mission or expand her goal to cause a shift in society. I’m unsure whether my personal wish for societal upheaval on this issue is clouding what’s best for my story.

Ms. Giorgio asked, “What does Agave want most?” I can’t seem to shake the strongly held belief (the shibble, in author Drusilla Campbell’s lingo) that Agave will not rest until things change on a deeper level – much deeper than just a shift in her personal situation. A possible compromise might be that this book will encompass her person-to-person quest, but leave open the possibility that she has just begun setting things right on a larger scale. So far, I haven’t reached closure on this.

I’d love to hear your pacing and plot point dilemmas and how you moved forward.

Write on,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

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1 Response to "Weeks Five and Six: a) Pacing and b) What Does Agave Want Most?"

Having just abandoned a novel that had too slow a pace and too little conflict, I’m hoping to do better next time, so I sympathize with your waddling penguin. I have no idea yet what my plot and pacing issues will be on my next story… it’s too soon. I do think that Agave’s personal quest could be a symbol of a larger shift, an inciting incident for global change. Can’t wait to hear more about it.

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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