When Writing a Novel, Don’t Rush Your Story

We live in a society where the majority of people want things fast, and they want them now.  From food to other products, people demand immediacy, and any time period above that can often result in one-star Yelp! reviews or complaints on social media. 

Even with entertainment or news we’ve become accustomed to soundbites, YouTube clips, and quick hits on the News app on our phones, giving us the gist with no real depth or further information.  And the majority of society is just fine with this.

So, what happens when you are planning out a novel or screenplay with that mindset of how the world is with its lack of attention and need to get things fast?  It can make a writer think they have to deliver story, character, and more at a breakneck pace, which is contradictory to what the point of a novel is.

SLOW IT DOWN!

Your story can be fast-paced, but if you start to rush through chapters just to get to what you think is the “fun stuff” it can cheat your reader – and yourself, the writer – out of delving deeper into the world you are creating.  Take your time and deliver chapters that have meaning to the story, develop character, and bolster the themes you want to communicate.  Don’t be afraid to slow it down a bit.

As a writer, I often find myself doing this, especially if I know that something really fun, action-packed, or exciting is coming up soon.  You get the feeling to just gloss over things in order to get to the fun stuff.  But if you cheat the story, you cheat the reader, and that’s the last thing you want to do. 

The big sequences should be earned, and the reader needs to feel that they have taken a journey with the characters where both get the big sequences when they are deserved in the story.  Not because the author got impatient and wanted to jump ahead.

That being said, if you are a writer – like myself – who likes to write those sequences when they pop in your head, don’t be afraid to just write them.  You can always write the connective tissue that comes before and joins the fun stuff to the rest of the story.  This can also help you as you write the chapters prior to the scene create momentum that drives the story and the reader toward the big event.

It’s also key when you’re writing to give your reader as much information about what’s going on as possible.  Utilize the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.  And also the sixth: thought.  As the author you can describe all of these things and use them to teleport your reader into the world you have created for them.  Put the reader there with your characters, in their heads, and make them feel like they are part of the story.

Novels are meant to be long.  They are meant to take their time to tell stories that have a lot of moving parts, the delve into the psyches and inner-workings of the characters, and give the reader an immersive experience.  While we do live in a world where it seems like less is more and faster is better, don’t forget that novel readers don’t want to take a trip in a car going 150mph, they want to take the train with it slower pace and multiple stops. 

Take your reader on a journey they don’t mind being on for a while.  They’ll be happier when they get to the final destination, and as the writer you will be satisfied that you wrote them a quality that took its time a really delivered.

What do you think?  Does taking your time and developing story, character, and description still matter?  Or have readers become impatient with novels that take their time?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Enhancing Your Creativity

As creative people, we sometimes allow ourselves to get trapped in a particular box.  I’m a writer.  I’m an actor.  I’m a painter.  And while it’s always good to have a clear idea of what your primary creative skill and talent is, I also think it’s important to tackle other creative pursuits that can help enhance and influence what you already love to do.

If you are a screenwriter or playwright, consider taking an acting class to see how actors interpret and interact with the words on the page.  This can help you as a writer see how to make your writing clearer and subject to the interpretation you intended.  It also will help you gain a new perspective on the collaborative process that goes into filmmaking or producing a play.

I would also recommend taking a class about directing to see how a director reads and interprets a script. This can also help you as you refine your script to make sure what is being communicated is what you intend.

If you’re a novelist, you could take an improv class and develop skills that help you connect ideas and concepts quickly that can help you when writing a rough or first draft.  This can definitely help when your characters take the wheel when your writing.  One of the basic concepts of improv is the never saying no to concept that’s introduced; it’s always “Yes, and then what” instead of negating any ideas presented.  

I highly recommend the series Whose Line is it, Anyway?to see pro improv performers in action.  With practice, you can get to that level, too and enhance your writing along the way.

These are just a few examples, but it never hurts to explore an alternate skill-set that is related, or even unrelated to what you love to do creatively.  Maybe a class on cooking, or wine making, or music could give you the inspiration you need to give your primary creative pursuit an injection of excitement and energy.

I have taken acting classes, improv, and directing classes and they have definitely helped me gain greater insight into the writing process when it comes to the collaborative process.  And they’re also a lot of fun!

What types of classes or activities have you done to help enhance your primary creative interests?  Leave a comment and let me know!