Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HOW FAST IS TOO FAST IN Y/A?

Last night I received an incredible critique of THE BLINDED GARDENER excerpt I have posted above from Donna Hole. If you are not familiar with Donna please hop over to her blog. She is an amazing writer and a wonderful blogger friend.

In my excerpt critique, Donna pointed out the pace. She found I rushed through a bit too fast, not allowing for certain details that should have been there to add to the richness of the scene. This got me thinking. I was always told that in m/g and y/a, pacing needed to by fast and exciting to keep a kids attention. And after eighteen months of cutting out too many details from my first novel, I had to agree.

So I promised myself in my next novel I would economize my words, keep details to a minimum, and would keep the plot moving at all costs. But is this right? I have always believed in balance when writing. Should there be rich details in writing for the fast-paced m/g and y/a market? Or, is keeping the story moving more important?

I would love to know what all of you think.

Now, Donna did say she isn't too familiar with y/a writing. I'm sure she would love to know you views on this herself.

I believe this is a very important issue. I appreciate details, but I'm not a teenager, so my likes are probably far different.

Many of you have children and teenagers and are more in tune. Unfortunately I am not at the pulse of teenagers' lives. I read, listen, and watch movies about teens all the time, so that is where I get my information. But some of you have a living, breathing, wealth of information right at your fingertips, and I always say "Go right to the source."

I'd appreciate any comments you might have on this subject and don't forget to drop by and say "Hi" to Donna.

Have a great Tuesday everyone.

28 comments:

  1. Hmmm. I don't write YA so I can't really answer this. I do know that I tend to rush things all the time! I always end up going back and fleshing out scenes.

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  2. Like Talli, I don't write YA fiction but I have been guilty of rushing things. My very first critique said that unusually for him, his advice was more was needed. Normally, writers add too much description and padding. I guess it is about finding the right balance - when I work it out I'll let you know the answer. LOL.

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  3. I do write YA and as you said, it's all about balance. There should be rich details, but they should be relevant to the plot. It also depends on the kind of story you're writing. Sometimes fast-paced works, and sometimes you need to slow things down.

    -Vicki

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  4. Fast paced doesn't necessarily mean rushing. In your Blinded Gardener book you get right into the story without back story, that's great! However, you don't allow enough time to reveal the blindness of the blind character. That's rushing. You can be fast paced without rushing. It's about fleshing out the details we want to live through with the MC. That's just one opinion.

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  5. I don't write YA either, but I'd say balance and solid story matter just as much. I'm not a detail person, so that's something I'm working on as well.

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  6. Stepping back from a scene for a moment, and asking yourself : What would I feel in this moment? What questions would I be asking myself about this situation? What would stand out to me?

    Knowing what is going on as an author, we sometimes forget that the main characters do not share that knowledge -- and leaving out impressions can make our narrative seem less realistic to our readers. A definite thing to avoid. Hope this helps, Roland

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  7. I don't write it, but I teach middle school. It's an ADD culture, both literally and figuratively. I don't think you need to sacrifice description and depth, but you do need to switch it up often, jumping back and forth between scenes, characters, etc... because you are dealing with a shorter attention span (but I think that's becoming true for a wide range of ages in today's world). The hard part of that is not becoming confusing. Chapters can be short and are a good way to mark when changes occur. Be careful not to underestimate ya interests or capacity for depth -- they notice when you dumb it down and take it personally.
    There's my 2 cents. :) Good luck.

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  8. Like or dislike the story, Twilight is a good read to get a feel for pacing in YA. The pace does have to be faster for YA otherwise you'll lose their interest. But one has to be careful not to tell too much instead of showing. As much as that may seem like speeding things along it doesn't. In telling there is a lack of action and YA's don't like a lack of action.

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  9. This is a great question. I don't read a lot of YA either but have some and I've seen both. I think it depends on what seems to be rushed. Sorry I’m not much help.

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  10. It's hard to comment without reading the excerpt but here it goes. I write YA and I feel that it depends on the story. If it's fast paced and it works for the story, it's fine. If you are glossing over things that need a bit more detail to achieve your pacing that's not fine. You need balance. How to achieve that balance is a tough one but trust your gut. Tell YOUR story and don't skimp on the details that are important to keep the story moving forward.

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  11. Well, like Heather said, Twilight does give you a good feel for pacing. It's one of those books that keeps you turning pages, without realizing you're turning pages. But it's also a detail-rich book. Meyer's explains everything in great detail, which can be a good and bad thing.

    Details make a book come alive for me. But too much and I start skimming. I think this is often that case with YA readers. I read a teen's review of a book that I'd recently reviewed and she explained that she didn't get why certain people were including in the plot, or why the character suddenly developed an illness. The fact was, all these things had been foreshadowed in previous chapters, she just missed them. I think mostly because she read it too fast. Because that's what most teens do, they read really fast and expect certain things to happen at a certain point in the story. So I think it's up to writers to only put in the pertinent details, the ones that won't be so easily glossed over by the YA reader.

    And I also believe was Roland said was true, your characters need to answer certain questions inside the narrative. Impressions stick with readers more than frivolous details. This is what the reader will relate to.

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  12. Did not intend for that comment to be so lengthy, Michael. Sorry.

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  13. I have two words for you Michael. Harry Potter. Harry is both rich in detail and full of humor and suspense. While I don't believe you should copy Harry, I do believe you should study J. K. Rowling and other authors of YA that you admire. I've also received the too fast comment and along with that the too much comment. Write what feels right to you, edit later. Keep some detail and ask yourself, does this enhance the plot and make it go forward? Or does it stop the reader. As you continue to write, these things will become second nature to you.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

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  14. Like many of the other commentors, I would say there has to be a balance between moving fast and giving enough information to the reader--as for how much of either is too much, I think it depends on the story and what's to happen later on.

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  15. I'm 25, so you know not the target YA audience, and I read a LOT of YA. about 8 of every 10 books I read are YA (about 50 a year) and while YA books are faster paced I cannot stand it when details that are important are skimmed over. and I think just beacuse it is YA dose not mean you ave to treat the book that different from a 'regular' book. (look at later Tamora Pierce books or Libba Bray) sure there is always the problem of over writing but I feel lit is always easier to take stuff out if you find it unneeded then to add stuff in.

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  16. Aha, Donna read one of my chapters too. ;o) Yeah, it's hard to answer that. It would depend on WHY she said that, as other commenters have noted. Perhaps details have been omitted where she felt you should've lingered? It may be somewhat subjective. If you have other critters, see what they say--if two or more people bring up the same points, then it's a greater likelihood that you need to change something.

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  17. While I haven't read your excerpt, pacing is very important in a YA. You don't want to bore the reader, but you also don't want to be too fast to where they can't connect with the character. I'm a fan of fast paced YA novels, especially fantasy, but there needs to be the slower setting-up type scenes interspersed. Those are the hardest for me to write- the 'getting form point a to point b' scenes. I just want it all to be action, but I know it can't be.

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  18. I don't write YA, but think you wouldn't want to skimp on important details. Stay on focus [witih no side routes] and write what needs to be there. You can hold off on detail if you want a faster scene then slow it down with the fleshing out.

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  19. Gosh, pace is important no matter what genre, but how fast is too fast? I don't know...I think it's important to vary pace though, for interest.

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  20. yay for amazing critiques that open our eyes to better writing! i think your "balance is key" still works here. i also don't think rushing is the same as keeping your plot moving nor is it the same as fast-paced action. when adding detail (especially in YA first person) you have to stop and put yourself in the character's shoes. what would you actually see/feel/think/hear in that moment. don't add anything unnatural in to describe the setting that the character wouldn't actually notice as well. also, think about information the reader really needs to know about to understand (and care for) your characters w/o dipping into backstory. there's also different ways to share information so that it's not adding heaviness/sluggishness/overwriting to the story. dialogue vs. narrative for example. you'll get it right, michael! you've learned so much and yet strive to continue to improve! keep it up and continue to share with us! super post! christy

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  21. whoa. that was really loooong. sorry! c

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  22. I've always considered myself a pretty good pacer. I'm not always perfect but I do try and do an even spread across my manuscript. That being said, no one is perfect!

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  23. Okay, there's pace and then there's the underpinning of the novel. I'd go back and look at the conflicts that propel the story forward to see if they're spaced in such a was as to allow tension to build.

    I love Donna's work and she's usually spot on. Good luck!

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  24. Wow Michael; this was such an excellent topic for discussion. I'm glad I checked the blogs one more time.

    I did actually want to know the answer to the balance question. I'm glad so many writers chimed in with their views. See, this is why we blog :)

    Thanks for all the kudos - OMG I'm blushing.

    .......dhole

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  25. I'd say you need to leave time to reflect/react between scenes, so you don't leave the reader too exhausted.

    I have an award for you at my blog.

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  26. Hey, Michael, great question! Fast is important in suspense, too, and I'm struggling with it all the time. Given that you want the pace to be relatively fast, here's the guideline that seems to work best for me: when you include those beautiful details, make SURE they are from your character's perspective, and especially from an emotion s/he's feeling. What does s/he notice/think (the detail) and why? Then write it exactly as the character experiences it, not as you, the author, would. I'm a big fan of detail. It truly enriches a story when done well.

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  27. So Michael where are all the YA authors when you need them. Getting the pace right is tricky but you've had some good advice from those in the know. Donna is a mine of info. Already been swapping yarns with her today. There is a fine line to what you're doing and to some extent you'll be relying on critiques.

    Denise:)

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  28. I agree with a lot of the commenters here that it's best to strike a balance. Pace is good but with too few details a reader may feel like they're not really getting into the story.

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