Winter outside a house with children in a horse-drawn sleigh

AW Amazon Store

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 33

Thread: On pacing in YA

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Windcutter's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    2,181

    On pacing in YA

    The first few scenes or the first chapter or two are energetic and exciting, and then it begins to drag. Like a snail drenched in treacle syrup. Nothing happens. Then more nothing happens. Then some more nothing keeps happening. Finally, when there are only about fifty or so pages left, the book wakes up and it’s kiss kiss bang bang again.

    I noticed a lot of recent YA books are like this. Not all of them, of course, but my book rants are getting a surprisingly similar note to them.

    I wonder if I’m the only one with this impression, and also if it’s related to the trilogy craze. Which makes some authors use the method of plot microdistribution in order to stretch said plot over three books. Like, you know, when you have three cakes but only enough chocolate frosting for one.

    Okay, with less snark and more substance: if we apply the three-act structure, it's like the first act is extremely condensed, sometimes even to the point of sacrificing the setting, the second act is huge and bloated and keeps making pauses, and then the third act is condensed again, though less than the first one. Whereas the traditional dramatic sequence presents a consecutive quickening of pace. Things get worse and worse until the darkest moment comes--and they also get going a bit quicker the closer we come to the denouement. It's not a sudden spurt at the end--it's like spinning a merry-go-round, slow, then faster and faster until it flies off the handle and smashes into something.

    P.S. And, um, this isn't one of those "ohmigod why do those published people write such books?" topic. I just want to check my impressions against those of other people. Maybe it's actually a trend.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    15,204
    I've noticed what you're talking about, and it's not exclusive to YA. I start a lot of books with interest, lose interest in the middle, then force myself to finish in the hope that the climax is awesome. This can be very annoying when the book is a 700+ page epic fantasy. When I read that much, I want a bit more to happen in the middle.

  3. #3
    Totes Legit Author Becca C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    near Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    4,536
    I've definitely noticed this, too. Too much padding in a lot of books these days, especially YA new releases. It's that dangerous part between the end of the beginning, and the halfway mark. If I DNF a book, it's almost always around the 1/3 mark.
    MAYBE IN PARIS - YA contemporary - coming June 6th 2017 from Sky Pony Press! Now available to preorder on Amazon!

    Represented by Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary!

    Add my book on Goodreads!

    Facebook - I don't really know what I'm doing there yet
    Twitter - Sometimes I'm funny there
    Tumblr - My blog



  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Zephaniah's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    The Land of No Horizon
    Posts
    147
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's felt that way/noticed this...
    There have been quite a few books (especially YA) where I get to around the middle and can't bring myself to finish it. When a book becomes painful to read and you actually dread picking it up because it's gotten to a boring point of seemingly no return, then there's a problem IMHO!

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW chicgeek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    224
    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    Okay, with less snark and more substance: if we apply the three-act structure, it's like the first act is extremely condensed, sometimes even to the point of sacrificing the setting, the second act is huge and bloated and keeps making pauses, and then the third act is condensed again, though less than the first one. Whereas the traditional dramatic sequence presents a consecutive quickening of pace. Things get worse and worse until the darkest moment comes--and they also get going a bit quicker the closer we come to the denouement. It's not a sudden spurt at the end--it's like spinning a merry-go-round, slow, then faster and faster until it flies off the handle and smashes into something.
    I've thought a lot about this. I tend to read YA Dystopian, so my opinions stem from reading a lot of that sub-genre, specifically, but I think a large part of the problem is that many of these trilogies don't have a very well developed meta-plot. If you think about classic Dystopian novels (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid's Tale, etc.), they're typically just one book. We get just enough backstory and pertinent info to root us in their society, and then just enough plot to sufficiently caution us against the themes they're exploring.

    The Hunger Games changed all that. Suzanne Collins unwittingly set a new precedent, creating the "YA Dystopian Trilogy" sub-genre in one foul swoop (or at least, popularizing it, and probably helping to popularize other YA Genre Trilogies/Series). Scores of authors are scrambling to publish trilogies in her wake, hoping to capitalize on her success by following her model.

    But what I've started to notice about these trilogies is that the author doesn't take the time to think through the events that birthed their Dystopia in the first place (because let's face it -- that's the hard part), and I feel like that's where the bulk of the story is going to stem from, once the initial conflict of the first book is over, and the protagonist has more or less come to terms with their situation.

    Instead, these authors tend to doctor up warped societies purely for shock-value, with little or no back story to justify them, and like any gimmick, once the novelty wears off, you're left feeling a little duped and disenchanted with their stories' overall lack of substance. I've personally been frustrated with the fact that so many of these trilogies entice with great concepts, but the bulk of the actual story ends up being very small in scope -- weighted with the character's day-to-day life drama in their little Dystopia, which can get old fast.

    What's more -- the antagonists in these stories tend to be one-dimensional, or so amorphous that it's tough feel like they even constitute a credible threat (they're just there to get in the way, conveniently, and out of the way, conveniently). Without that threat to hold the reader in suspense, your tension is dead in the water, and no matter how fast-paced your plot, it's going to come across as dull and tedious.

    In working on my own YA Dystopian Trilogy, I've done my best to (and continue to) flesh out the meta-plot, and the bulk of book two and three will revolve around my MC unraveling the mystery behind the circumstance that brought about her society. Still working on book one, at the moment. But my goal is to tell a 300,000 word story, not a 100,000 word story in 300,000 words.

    Which is what I feel like the majority of these authors are doing (to varying degrees), largely in an effort to generate more buzz and more revenue. I've even noticed this emerging trend where they'll write their trilogy (or in some cases, more than three books), and they'll go back and write book 1.5, retelling book one from the love interest/best friend's perspective. I know that Orson Scott Card did it to much acclaim (with the Ender/Bean series), but Ender's Game had a fair amount of depth and worldbuilding. A lot of these trilogies... the plot is so simple/generic in the first book that it'd be easy enough to rewrite it as a different integral character. Color me cynical, but it just seems like a way to make a fast buck, and to keep your name on the bookshelves.

  6. #6
    Absorbing inspiration from the moon laurie17's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    1,069
    I get the feeling it's something to do with increasing word counts. Seeing as publishers will no longer really buy books under a certain length, quality is being replaced with quantity. It's one of my pet peeves with the industry, as there were so many great YA books that were really quite short (lot of S.E. Hinton's, for example).
    There are some which haven't fallen into this, but more and more are.
    I'm an under-writer purely because I just can't pad. I hate how my stories look when there's a load of unnecessary stuff hanging around that's slowing everything down (plus, I've been told I write action the best, so action is very much there). However, I'm struggling to reach a 60k word count for a YA sci-fi most of the time. My last try was 59k, which bulked up a bit from editing in some world-building description. There are authors, like Janice Hardy, who have managed to keep up the pace and reach somewhere around 70k, and have really very tight writing (pretty much nothing wrong with it).
    I do think it's the idea of increased word counts that's causing the slow pace a lot of the time. Some trilogies could be told in one book, but then they don't have the series potential.
    In Progress:
    Bodies of Clay
    - YA Fantasy - 82K (Chapter 1 in SYW, Query in progress)

  7. #7
    Isn't this a direct consequence of the advice new writers are receiving? Without a very strong beginning, you won't sell the book. Slow starts are the privilege of writers with an established fan base. You have to grab the reader's attention on page one. Cut your first two chapters.

    So writers front-load the book. They escalate quickly to create tension, write an ending that will hopefully help sell their next book, and then fill the middle with just enough that the reader won't drop it.

  8. #8
    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Paris, France
    Posts
    6,866
    Quote Originally Posted by sciencewarrior View Post
    Isn't this a direct consequence of the advice new writers are receiving? Without a very strong beginning, you won't sell the book. Slow starts are the privilege of writers with an established fan base. You have to grab the reader's attention on page one. Cut your first two chapters.

    So writers front-load the book. They escalate quickly to create tension, write an ending that will hopefully help sell their next book, and then fill the middle with just enough that the reader won't drop it.

    Sounds like the issue is with how they internalize it. The idea is that your opening is awesome to pull people in because they want to read more awesome. I've dealt with the bogged down middle. It really comes down to craft at that point—how well the writer understands the idea of pacing and plot structures. I think those Middlesbrough tend to come from writers who don't plan. When a novel is outlined, the middle is already planned and closely examined before being written.

  9. #9
    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    2,192
    Definitely a combination of frontloading + trilogy-itis, with probably a healthy dose of lack of outlining.

    I want to read more YA that approaches it as if each book is the beginning and eternal end of a story, and you only have XX,000 words to say everything you want to say, so every word better be bursting with awesome.

    Then, if that book was great, and there's a good hook for a sequel somewhere in there--write a sequel.

    But we all know publishing doesn't work that way. Publishers buy trilogies. Authors think in trilogy terms. It's kind of a chicken and egg situation, but the fact is there's pressure from both sides toward trilogies.

    Meanwhile, I've just finished another YA novel that's Book 1 in an Exciting New Series which I will not be continuing with, like the dozen others I dropped this year. Sigh.
    UNTEACHABLE
    BLACK IRIS
    CAMGIRL - 2015
    Untitled Book #4 - 2016-ish

    My self-publishing saga, in all its gory detail, is here.

  10. #10
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    927
    Quote Originally Posted by sciencewarrior View Post
    Isn't this a direct consequence of the advice new writers are receiving? Without a very strong beginning, you won't sell the book. Slow starts are the privilege of writers with an established fan base. You have to grab the reader's attention on page one. Cut your first two chapters.

    So writers front-load the book. They escalate quickly to create tension, write an ending that will hopefully help sell their next book, and then fill the middle with just enough that the reader won't drop it.
    Yep, this is exactly what I was thinking. I've been told time and time again that agents will not bother to read further than a couple of paragraphs if your beginning doesn't grab their attention, and so writers are competing against each other for the most exciting opening.

    I think I'm guilty of this kind of writing, but I put in enough plot in the middle of the book to keep people interested, or at least that's the feedback I'm getting from readers. I put in a lot of backstory as well, especially for my characters.

    It's interesting that this is something that's getting a backlash. Perhaps the next trend will be to start slow and gradually build.

    Interesting stuff about word counts as well. I'm very conscious of my word count and try to keep it within 80-85k. Some YA books are very long indeed, and I've even noticed that some use large fonts, probably to bump up the page numbers and give it that 'brick' feel. It certainly seems expected these days.

  11. #11
    Along for the ride BBBurke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    560
    Quote Originally Posted by sarahdalton View Post
    Some YA books are very long indeed, and I've even noticed that some use large fonts, probably to bump up the page numbers and give it that 'brick' feel. It certainly seems expected these days.
    I've noticed that, too. I was looking at a book the other day - it looked substantial on the shelf so I opened it up. Large font, large margins. Did a count and it barely averaged 200 words a page. I figure it came it at over 90k total, so it wasn't a short book to begin with. But they did their best to package it as large as they could.

    My blog:

  12. #12
    might be a giant maybegenius's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    667
    I tend to think it's probably a planning thing, too. Or leaning heavily on the concept to carry a story -- aka, "this concept is so cool that people will keep reading just to see how everything turns out."

    There's kind of a science behind series. Not just trilogies, but any book series that has multiple books following the same ultimate plot thread. It's difficult for authors to get noticed on standalone books. It absolutely happens (John Green being a primary example), but it's difficult. It usually takes a few books for the audience to build and start recognizing the author as someone whose work they enjoy. Meanwhile, a series is that same thing in a condensed kind of form -- three books, same world, one after the other, boom boom boom. Some readers pick up the first book, more pick up the next, on and on. There's also the fact that when you have a series, you can't exactly start in the middle (at least not most of the time). So there are built-in additional sales for the author. I honestly think that's why series get picked up so often -- they sell well. In general, anyway. I'd bet many authors write a standalone that the publisher wants to turn into a series.

    I do also agree that the meandering in the middle probably has more to do with not following basic plot conventions -- inciting incident, pinch point, midpoint, pinch point, climax, resolution. When the "turning point" doesn't come until close to the climax, it can throw off the feel of the story.

    IDK. I always wonder how much of this is authors writing the way they think they have to (spreading a story out over multiple books), and how much is publishers encouraging series. I know I purposely plan my projects as individual books, and the most I've ever come up with so far is a duology. If someone wanted me to stretch it into a trilogy, I think the pacing would definitely suffer.
    S.E. Sinkhorn (or Steph)

    My Blog | My Twitter | My Tumblr

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Windcutter's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    2,181
    Quote Originally Posted by rwm4768 View Post
    I've noticed what you're talking about, and it's not exclusive to YA. I start a lot of books with interest, lose interest in the middle, then force myself to finish in the hope that the climax is awesome. This can be very annoying when the book is a 700+ page epic fantasy. When I read that much, I want a bit more to happen in the middle.
    *struggles to imagine a 700+ page book with nothing happening in it* It's a special art to write those. Not kidding here--I tend to underwrite.
    Quote Originally Posted by Becca C. View Post
    I've definitely noticed this, too. Too much padding in a lot of books these days, especially YA new releases. It's that dangerous part between the end of the beginning, and the halfway mark. If I DNF a book, it's almost always around the 1/3 mark.
    I wonder if padding is actually a publisher's demand, especially after the latest comments.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zephaniah View Post
    I'When a book becomes painful to read and you actually dread picking it up because it's gotten to a boring point of seemingly no return, then there's a problem IMHO!
    Skipping is the answer. Though I don't like skipping, so I often end up just dropping it.
    Quote Originally Posted by chicgeek View Post
    Which is what I feel like the majority of these authors are doing (to varying degrees), largely in an effort to generate more buzz and more revenue. I've even noticed this emerging trend where they'll write their trilogy (or in some cases, more than three books), and they'll go back and write book 1.5, retelling book one from the love interest/best friend's perspective. I know that Orson Scott Card did it to much acclaim (with the Ender/Bean series), but Ender's Game had a fair amount of depth and worldbuilding. A lot of these trilogies... the plot is so simple/generic in the first book that it'd be easy enough to rewrite it as a different integral character. Color me cynical, but it just seems like a way to make a fast buck, and to keep your name on the bookshelves.
    Oh yes, at some point it seemed like 90% of new sales were trilogies. Like nothing else ever got read (or sold) outside of contemporary, the last fortress of the dwindling stand-alone army.
    On book 1.5, someone mentioned that the publisher urged them to write tie-in shorts for digital-only release. Like, the contract literally said "trilogy and 4 short stories/novellas set in the same universe".

    Quote Originally Posted by laurie17 View Post
    I get the feeling it's something to do with increasing word counts. Seeing as publishers will no longer really buy books under a certain length, quality is being replaced with quantity.
    This is a scary, scary thought. Because I can so relate. I don't even know why--my style's not really minimalist and I tend to have quite a lot of plot--but I underwrite. Always. Like whoa. I struggled to get my adult fantasy to 90k. And when I switched to present tense, my writing in general took it very well, but my word counts dropped again. My current YA thriller seems to be determined to end around 60,000. Is it too short these days? I'm thinking maybe its contemporary setting will save its face.

    I'm reading TEN now, it must be somewhere between 60,000 and 65,000, and it's one of the shortest YA books I've read this year. Lisa McMann is also pretty famous for writing short (I think the first book in her trilogy was around 45k).
    Quote Originally Posted by sciencewarrior View Post
    Isn't this a direct consequence of the advice new writers are receiving? Without a very strong beginning, you won't sell the book. Slow starts are the privilege of writers with an established fan base. You have to grab the reader's attention on page one. Cut your first two chapters.

    So writers front-load the book. They escalate quickly to create tension, write an ending that will hopefully help sell their next book, and then fill the middle with just enough that the reader won't drop it.
    Front-loading is a nice term.
    I was just wondering... why not cut the middle some? You've got a cool start, an intense ending, why leave the middle like that when you can have a snappy shorter book instead? But after reading the comments about how the books are made to look thicker...

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Windcutter's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    2,181
    Quote Originally Posted by missesdash View Post
    Sounds like the issue is with how they internalize it. The idea is that your opening is awesome to pull people in because they want to read more awesome. I've dealt with the bogged down middle. It really comes down to craft at that point—how well the writer understands the idea of pacing and plot structures. I think those Middlesbrough tend to come from writers who don't plan. When a novel is outlined, the middle is already planned and closely examined before being written.
    But the plan itself can have a slow and dragging middle, can't it? That is, it can be planned that way to begin with. Especially since the editors are okay with that.
    Another thing I'm wondering about--okay, frontloading is to hook the readers, but why hurry again at the end? If the reader has already gone through the middle, it means they have enough interest. Or enough patience. Or both.
    Quote Originally Posted by leahzero View Post
    Definitely a combination of frontloading + trilogy-itis, with probably a healthy dose of lack of outlining.

    I want to read more YA that approaches it as if each book is the beginning and eternal end of a story, and you only have XX,000 words to say everything you want to say, so every word better be bursting with awesome.

    Then, if that book was great, and there's a good hook for a sequel somewhere in there--write a sequel.

    But we all know publishing doesn't work that way. Publishers buy trilogies. Authors think in trilogy terms. It's kind of a chicken and egg situation, but the fact is there's pressure from both sides toward trilogies.

    Meanwhile, I've just finished another YA novel that's Book 1 in an Exciting New Series which I will not be continuing with, like the dozen others I dropped this year. Sigh.
    I used to think that trilogy-itis was a result of the shorter word counts in YA. Like, you want to write this 130k fantasy, or you naturally write long books, but it's YA, so you chop it in three and pad each one a bit. Seems I was wrong.

    Oh yes, the lack of ending, my eternal reading whine. Though a sequel is less of a hook than a story that's not actually finished.
    Quote Originally Posted by sarahdalton View Post
    It's interesting that this is something that's getting a backlash. Perhaps the next trend will be to start slow and gradually build.
    I think the backlash is more about the stretch-out than the sharp beginning. The first chapter was always meant to be a hook.
    It's just that the whole trend seems to be a bit... contradictory. We are always told that the contemporary readers are very impatient, so we must hook them as fast as possible, we cannot afford a slow set-up, they won't wait. Yet those impatient readers now want long padded books? Where's the logic? I am one of those impatient readers myself--I like it hard and fast, and I like it hard and fast from start to finish.
    Quote Originally Posted by maybegenius View Post
    Or leaning heavily on the concept to carry a story -- aka, "this concept is so cool that people will keep reading just to see how everything turns out."
    And it works. xd I bought so many books just because the concept looked extra cool.
    Quote Originally Posted by maybegenius View Post
    There's kind of a science behind series. Not just trilogies, but any book series that has multiple books following the same ultimate plot thread. It's difficult for authors to get noticed on standalone books. It absolutely happens (John Green being a primary example), but it's difficult. It usually takes a few books for the audience to build and start recognizing the author as someone whose work they enjoy. Meanwhile, a series is that same thing in a condensed kind of form -- three books, same world, one after the other, boom boom boom. Some readers pick up the first book, more pick up the next, on and on. There's also the fact that when you have a series, you can't exactly start in the middle (at least not most of the time). So there are built-in additional sales for the author. I honestly think that's why series get picked up so often -- they sell well. In general, anyway. I'd bet many authors write a standalone that the publisher wants to turn into a series.
    I also wonder, why trilogies. Why not a four book series. All good things come in threes? There must be some psychologic reason behind that number.
    Quote Originally Posted by maybegenius View Post
    IDK. I always wonder how much of this is authors writing the way they think they have to (spreading a story out over multiple books), and how much is publishers encouraging series. I know I purposely plan my projects as individual books, and the most I've ever come up with so far is a duology. If someone wanted me to stretch it into a trilogy, I think the pacing would definitely suffer.
    This is a quote from CARDS ON THE TABLE, and the character Mrs. Oliver is a famous novelist. I always think of it when talking about word count, pacing and padding.

    "I can always think of things," said Mrs. Oliver, happily. "What is so tiring is writing them down. I always think I've finished and then when I count up I find I've only written thirty thousand words instead of sixty thousand and so then I have to throw in another murder and get the heroine kidnaped again."

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    *struggles to imagine a 700+ page book with nothing happening in it* It's a special art to write those. Not kidding here--I tend to underwrite.
    You haven't read the Wheel of Time series, have you? I got up to book four before putting it on hold, but most readers agree that books seven to ten are a verbose, sprawling middle that doesn't advance the story at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    This is a scary, scary thought. Because I can so relate. I don't even know why--my style's not really minimalist and I tend to have quite a lot of plot--but I underwrite. Always. Like whoa. I struggled to get my adult fantasy to 90k. And when I switched to present tense, my writing in general took it very well, but my word counts dropped again. My current YA thriller seems to be determined to end around 60,000. Is it too short these days? I'm thinking maybe its contemporary setting will save its face.
    I think shorter books still work for YA, and they let you publish more frequently. Your editor will love you if they can get your second book out while your first one is still fresh in your readers' minds.

  16. #16
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    The windswept northern wastes
    Posts
    1,881
    I tend to write long with padding because I love description, world building, setting the scene. It's been a struggle to get my latest book under 85k. I've been reading noir books (mainly Ross McDonald) for inspiration; they tend to run 250 pages or shorter and be written in economical prose but still do great atmosphere and scene setting.

    I'm OK with a slow middle if and only if the author is really good at developing characters -- if the book tends to the literary, that is. If it's a fairly generic Chosen One MC and her generic love interest, that's where I'll lose interest.

    I recently got some stinging but very helpful advice about how my MC was drifting through the novel's first third without a clear motivation. Because that first third involves solving a mystery that makes the rest of the plot possible, I need the slow start to set up my breakneck last two thirds. But I've been working on ways to make it move faster, with more obvious tension and urgency. I've had to confront the fact that sometimes my MC is just doing what I need her to do, when she should have agency. Ugh!

    I want to try writing a novel that all takes place in one night. Think that would be a great exercise in making the plot tight and efficient.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

  17. #17
    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Paris, France
    Posts
    6,866
    I have actually seen two philosophies with the ending. One is not to wrap it up too quickly because you're cheating your reader. Another, is the kind of "hey let's get this over with because it needs to be intense and free falling and just like POW." So it's not to keep them interested. It's to, at the end, knock them over. If you remember a good ending, almost everything else is forgivable. It's the last impression before you (hopefully) buy another one of the author's books.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW KalenO's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Posts
    331
    I think the predisposition towards trilogies is that the three-act structure of storytelling (Beginning, Middle and End) is hard-wired into a lot of writers. So when they write a series, they conceptualize it as three books, a beginning, middle and end book...which leads in turn to a lot of the complaints about most middle books in trilogies these days feeling like filler, much like the OP pointed out a lot of middles in books read right now anyway.

    Building on what others have said, I think it comes down to a lack of planning on the writers' part, and on the publishers' part, a lack of insisting on a firm, clear vision for the next two books before purchasing a trilogy. With the emphasis on high concept spec fiction in the rush to find the Next Big Thing, writers and publishers are putting a lot of faith in the sizzle and shine of their big snazzy idea or world, and not enough focus on the follow through and making sure its tightly plotted, the worldbuilding is coherent and the end direction is known in advance of publishing the first book.

  19. #19
    Revolutionize the World kuwisdelu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    The End of the World
    Posts
    38,106
    Quote Originally Posted by KalenO View Post
    I think the predisposition towards trilogies is that the three-act structure of storytelling (Beginning, Middle and End) is hard-wired into a lot of writers. So when they write a series, they conceptualize it as three books, a beginning, middle and end book...which leads in turn to a lot of the complaints about most middle books in trilogies these days feeling like filler, much like the OP pointed out a lot of middles in books read right now anyway.
    If it's from three-act structure, though, that's no excuse for the middle being filler. The second act is supposed to be rising action... Technically, it should be the most interesting.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW KalenO's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Posts
    331
    Quote Originally Posted by kuwisdelu View Post
    If it's from three-act structure, though, that's no excuse for the middle being filler. The second act is supposed to be rising action... Technically, it should be the most interesting.
    Oh of course its no excuse. But I think a lot of people are familiar with the three-act structure, or at least aware their work is supposed to follow a three act structure, without actually really knowing what that all entails.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Windcutter's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    2,181
    Quote Originally Posted by sciencewarrior View Post
    You haven't read the Wheel of Time series, have you? I got up to book four before putting it on hold, but most readers agree that books seven to ten are a verbose, sprawling middle that doesn't advance the story at all.
    I haven't, I just heard it was a huge series.
    Quote Originally Posted by sciencewarrior View Post
    I think shorter books still work for YA, and they let you publish more frequently. Your editor will love you if they can get your second book out while your first one is still fresh in your readers' minds.
    How often would that be? One book per year seems to be typical. A lot of popular YA series get releases that way. But I think if I were a full time writer with a contract, I'd be able to produce at least two books per year. And if we are talking short books like 40-60k, then more.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    I tend to write long with padding because I love description, world building, setting the scene. It's been a struggle to get my latest book under 85k. I've been reading noir books (mainly Ross McDonald) for inspiration; they tend to run 250 pages or shorter and be written in economical prose but still do great atmosphere and scene setting.
    I didn't meant padding quite like that, I like description. More like, pointless scenes, lack of development, repetitive introspection.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    I recently got some stinging but very helpful advice about how my MC was drifting through the novel's first third without a clear motivation. Because that first third involves solving a mystery that makes the rest of the plot possible, I need the slow start to set up my breakneck last two thirds. But I've been working on ways to make it move faster, with more obvious tension and urgency. I've had to confront the fact that sometimes my MC is just doing what I need her to do, when she should have agency. Ugh!
    I also had an interesting comment from a beta reader about motivation. It seems my MCs often have external, reactive motivation. Like "I want to become a king" (internal and active, I want it not because someone did something to me, but because I want to change status quo) vs "I want to save the princess who was kidnapped by a dragon" (if the dragon were asleep that day, I wouldn't want anything to change").
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    I want to try writing a novel that all takes place in one night. Think that would be a great exercise in making the plot tight and efficient.
    I know an adult antasy writer who often writes books taking place in one day or two days or even several hours--she still manages to make them long. It's the sheer amount of detailing.
    Quote Originally Posted by missesdash View Post
    I have actually seen two philosophies with the ending. One is not to wrap it up too quickly because you're cheating your reader. Another, is the kind of "hey let's get this over with because it needs to be intense and free falling and just like POW." So it's not to keep them interested. It's to, at the end, knock them over. If you remember a good ending, almost everything else is forgivable. It's the last impression before you (hopefully) buy another one of the author's books.
    That's true, a great ending makes a deep impression. But rushing doesn't always make it intense. I'm reading a book like that now and all I can think is "why did you spend 200 pages on boring stuff when you could have saved some for this good stuff." It's like lazily eating dinner which has a bland second dish and then the waiter brings you a great dessert and says, hey, we are closing in five minutes, hurry up, would you?

    Quote Originally Posted by KalenO View Post
    I think the predisposition towards trilogies is that the three-act structure of storytelling (Beginning, Middle and End) is hard-wired into a lot of writers. So when they write a series, they conceptualize it as three books, a beginning, middle and end book...which leads in turn to a lot of the complaints about most middle books in trilogies these days feeling like filler, much like the OP pointed out a lot of middles in books read right now anyway.
    I often feel like it's not really a structural thing, but more like a content thing. As in, there simply isn't enough plot for three books. Or, if it's a single book, there is only enough plot for a novella.
    Quote Originally Posted by KalenO View Post
    With the emphasis on high concept spec fiction in the rush to find the Next Big Thing, writers and publishers are putting a lot of faith in the sizzle and shine of their big snazzy idea or world, and not enough focus on the follow through and making sure its tightly plotted, the worldbuilding is coherent and the end direction is known in advance of publishing the first book.
    I wonder how it goes with trilogies: if they love your first book and you get a three-book contract, is it enough to just give them some outlines for the next two books? At which point does a publisher say, yes, we accept this as your second contracted book, next in series, please write it?

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    How often would that be? One book per year seems to be typical. A lot of popular YA series get releases that way. But I think if I were a full time writer with a contract, I'd be able to produce at least two books per year. And if we are talking short books like 40-60k, then more.
    I think two books per year would be a nice goal. You could keep a long-running series and release standalones or shorter series between installments; or release an entire trilogy in 18 months.

    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    I wonder how it goes with trilogies: if they love your first book and you get a three-book contract, is it enough to just give them some outlines for the next two books? At which point does a publisher say, yes, we accept this as your second contracted book, next in series, please write it?
    I guess it depends on the relationship you have with the publisher. If you are a known quantity, even a back-of-envelope high concept may be enough. For a basically unknown writer, they may ask for a detailed outline.

  23. #23
    Revolutionize the World kuwisdelu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    The End of the World
    Posts
    38,106
    Quote Originally Posted by Windcutter View Post
    That's true, a great ending makes a deep impression.
    I wonder if this is a cultural or personal thing?

    Me? I remember most novels for their middle.

  24. #24
    figuring it all out
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    83
    Quote Originally Posted by maybegenius View Post
    I tend to think it's probably a planning thing, too. Or leaning heavily on the concept to carry a story -- aka, "this concept is so cool that people will keep reading just to see how everything turns out."

    [...]

    I do also agree that the meandering in the middle probably has more to do with not following basic plot conventions -- inciting incident, pinch point, midpoint, pinch point, climax, resolution. When the "turning point" doesn't come until close to the climax, it can throw off the feel of the story.
    This. I've noticed that this sort of thing happens a lot with debuts and second books. It might just be inexperience. A lot of these books aren't heavy on subplots. I seems to notice it most in highly character driven non-contemporary stuff. I think it has something to do with showing the character's indecision or ineffectiveness or something.

    Although, sometimes it happens with the last book in a series. I think that might be the result of fatigue.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW chicgeek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    224
    Quote Originally Posted by Jennn View Post
    Although, sometimes it happens with the last book in a series. I think that might be the result of fatigue.
    Small wonder, when you're trying to stretch one book into three! Plot's gotta be getting pretty thin by the end there.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search