Pace Setting for Writers

As I come up on 250 pages in my novel, I’ve been pondering the importance of pace in writing. The closer to the end of the narrative I come, the more anxious I become, and I sometimes fear that I write too quickly. I used to not dwell on this. You write at the speed you write, right?

Years of practice have shown me this isn’t so. I’ve learned that slowing myself down a little can help the quality of the work. Slow enough that I consider how the language is fitting together. Word choices, symbolism, character motivations, all of these background components get a little more screen time in my writing brain. It’s important to not go so slow that you lose your emotional momentum. That is probably more disastrous than the alternative. But pulling back a little, I’ve learned, makes everything shine a little more.

The Concentration of Art

It has come to my attention that quick hits and “sudden bursts of inspiration” will not alone create great art. Because good art, by its inherent nature, is a focusing of the mind, in which we, the artist, dwell with our subject for extended periods, dredging its depths. It is a process that requires concentration and long doses of it.

I have been working steadily on the novel and have entered a strange loop within the first six chapters in which I have been constantly discovering more material that needs to be inserted here and there. It’s a very enriching and proactive experience, and I feel like my attitude around pace is very healthy, for the work and myself. That attitude is this: I will work steadily every day, but I will not be concerned with page or word counts, only with quality and progress. It seems to be paying off.

In thinking about this idea of pace, I was struck with the nature of pace when I was writing fiction for undergraduate and graduate work. Then, it felt like page count was the all-encompassing necessity. I think perhaps, because I’ve written so many pages of fiction at this point, fifty pages more or less have much less of an effect on me. What good is fifty pages if it’s crap? Now, I’ll spend an hour on a few paragraphs sometimes, just because that’s what that moment of creation requests. It’s almost as if I am outside of time. Which, of course, is ridiculous.