Linda Maye Adams

Soldier, Storyteller

The Beginner Culture of Writing


A few weeks ago, I got a personal rejection from a magazine because of my pacing.   So I went off in search of anything on pacing that might help. Typically, most resources said:

“Write short sentences.”

“Write short scenes.”

“Cut all out all necessary words.”

Well, first, I’m not writing a thriller, so a lot of short sentences isn’t going to help me, except during a fast-paced scene. The same goes for short scenes. The unnecessary words guidance is one of those bizarre ones that leads people to cut out information that’s important. I’ve seen writers under-describe a scene to try to be fast-paced.

In fact, it’s been hard finding anything on this topic. Odd, considering it’s one of the four that the professional publishers look for in stories (the others are story, setting, and characters).

Or maybe not.

Most of the craft advice out there is for beginners. And not any beginner; it’s for the ones starting their first book.

It’s like anyone else above that level doesn’t exist.

We see it in the writing magazine with articles that sound like fad diets: “Do these 10 Things to Get Published!” You know, eliminating adverbs, show not tell—well, you’ve seen them all before.

I was frustrated for a long time because I wanted to push into the more advanced areas, and there isn’t anything to tell writers what those are. If you figure out what those areas are, there isn’t much available beyond what a beginner would need to know.

Like pacing.

Anne Allen mentioned in her comments to me on her blog that beginners need the most help. That’s true, but when the craft information focuses nearly entirely on the beginner, it does a disservice to everyone. The beginner thinks they’ve learned all they need to—but doesn’t understand why they’re being rejected or not getting indie sales. The ones who want to push beyond the basics can’t find much. There is some out there, but it’s hard to find, and you have to constantly keep digging.

I think the most important thing though is recognizing that most of the craft advice is for beginners, and that everyone should not stay a beginner. Try one new non-beginner thing today.

Maybe pacing.

4 Comments

  1. I cut a story down once to reach the word count–and kept cutting–and suddenly I realized that I didn’t have a story any more!

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  2. I’ve actually read some good advice on pacing, but it’s buried in other advice… Meaning they didn’t like write a chapter about “pacing” they wove it into their overall advice. Orson Scott Card wrote a book about writing back in the day that gave good pacing advice, and it wasn’t “cut, cut, cut”. Which is pretty awful advice in my mind… I can’t remember the title though.

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