Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Addressing Pacing #amrevising #amediting


If you caught my post last week, you know that I have yet another round of revise and resubmit for Book 2. I had a nice conversation with my agent this week about her concerns and various ways I could approach her concerns. And, apparently, a Bullitt car chase is not on the table (you’ll have to read last week’s post to get that one ๐Ÿ™‚ )

The main concerns are weak-ish secondary characters, and pacing in the middle. I think I know how to handle the character issues. Part of that solution will be digging into the characters’ lives before the story starts. And today I actually came up with something that I think will work well.

However, that doesn’t address the pacing concerns. In a mystery, the idea is to have the sleuth discover clues that lead them to the culprit, but in a way that doesn’t slow the story down too much. In Book 2 a major source of clues is a collection of photographs along with notes in a journal, along with a map.

Not so exciting (and no, there aren’t any compromising photos in the mix), but essential to telling both the amateur sleuth and the reader who is involved and hint at a motive.

I printed out one of my writing teacher’s craft posts from the Blackbird Writers Discussion forum on FB. This post was about middles (posted on Jan 18, 2023: not sure this link will work, but here it is Writing craft post #3), timely for me. From Chris’s post, I see more than one mention of the middle being about action, movement.

Yikes. Then there’s reassurance–action can be big or small, but the middle has to be “active”. Thing is, I’ve created a threshold, that point where the main character hits that point in the story where she makes a choice to stop what she’s doing for reasons she believes are important enough that she feels going further down that path will hurt people she cares about.

And the reversal comes soon after, when something happens that forces her to cross that “threshold” (see, Chris, I did read the post ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ). But that doesn’t help the earlier part of the middle that is less “active”.

Have you run into that issue, where you have a “saggy middle” in your story? The question is, how do I add more “action” without making it obvious? One thing I am doing is “what if”. You know, brainstorming by asking “what if”. What if her mentor’s relationship wasn’t as ideal as my MC thought? What if there aren’t notes to accompany the photos? What photos raise the most suspicion? What if the other photos are taken out of the scene completely? What if there are different pictures that raise suspicion and add clues more effectively? What would those look like? Would that prop up the pacing?

Anyway, you get the idea. I find asking “what if” is an effective way for me to work through ways to address stuff like this. I write out my “what if” questions in longhand as stream-of-consciousness. When the weather is nicer (and warmer) I talk through “what ifs” on walks. I’ve gotten through a lot of “hmm, now what” and “this doesn’t work right” situations this way.

IN any case, I have my writing teacher’s post close at hand. That way I have a direction of sorts for my “what ifs”.

Have you ever used the “what if” tool to work through problematic scenes? Do you use a different method of working through parts of your story that move more slowly than they could?

I have one more piece of homework to finish, then I’ll dig back into Book 2 armed with suggestions from my agent and whatever pops up during my “what if” sessions. I know something will percolate to the top that will be an AHA! That’s usually the way it works with me, and then I wonder why the hell didn’t my Muse mention that particular idea sooner ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, after “enjoying” single-digit weather for the past week (not to mention double-digit below zero temps at night and negative double-digit windchills), we’re supposed get within spitting distance of freezing this weekend–woo hoo! Heat wave!

Keep on writing!

Throwback kitties: Nyx and Tibbers

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), one dog, five chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

9 thoughts on “Addressing Pacing #amrevising #amediting

  1. Action in the middle of a story is so important, isn’t it, Julie? There has to be suspense and something to keep the writer swiping/turning pages. But at the same time, having bodies fall left and right isn’t always the answer (well, it isn’t for the crime fiction I like (or write)). What I’m doing in my WIP, for what it’s worth, is having about the suspects be discovered, so they aren’t what they seem, and the reader’s invited to re-think the ‘whodunit’ part, if that makes any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so on track with the “what if?” game we all play as writers. Try that game in layers: worst/grizzliest action happening, or surprising something or character comes into the mix you don’t have now, or a 180 happens for her in any shape or form, or she’s injured or attacked in a way that’s of course ominous. Middles of mystery books in most categories are often bloody hell for the protagonist. That’s where blood is left on their front doorstep to warn them away, or the carcass of a deer is left on their lawn, or a snowman with a scarf always appears as a warning of the next murder or destruction (THE LEMON MAN). The middle usually has to include a serious attack on the protagonist–and it’s logical because she should have been snooping and deducing too much by the middle. What is the serious injury or attack she might have at this juncture? What other body or blood or carcass does she discover in the middle? …We writers are wicked, but it’s about challenging our sleuths for the sake of showing their character arc, change and growth. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris! Multi-layer what-ifsโ€“great suggestion! Iโ€™m working through the characters with what-ifs, and I do have an attack on the protag, but Iโ€™m thinking there could be more revealed thatโ€™s a redirect of suspicions. I did have something in an earlier revision, but that was removed when I pulled a character that didnโ€™t really need to be there. Hmm. What-ifs are fun because as part of the process you can do all kinds of crazy what-ifs, and hit the right one when you are least expecting it.

      Have a wonderful writing week!


  3. Middles are rough! So many writers have said so. And I agree. I feel like my middle sags also…
    Are we still talking about writing? ;P
    Oooooohhhh…. kitties! Ooosheebooboo!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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