Friday, 22 March 2013

Keeping Time

You know that horrible, rage-filled emotion of having wasted your time? Your precious, scarce, more valuable than gold-pressed-latinum time?

I was tweeting with a friend who'd recently seen a movie which filled her with screaming resentment. She was stuck there watching, and all she could think was, "This is a massive waste of my time. I want to get out of here. Now!"

Time. More please.
I've had a morning like that. I sat at school assembly which went on and on and ON. An hour. Yes, assembly is important, but oh please kill me now. An hour!!!

After which, I had volunteered to do a cooking demonstration, so I had to sit through assembly. But then, because the assembly went so long, people walked out and nobody came to the cooking demonstration!

Cue white-hot-rage-resentment episode.

If we'd been told assembly would take an hour, but there would be yummy biscuits (ie mine) afterwards, it could have been OK. But I felt trapped by the uncertainty of not knowing what was going on or how long it would take. That clawing "I've got to get out of here" feeling took over.

I would have been desperate to get out of there and get on with the day too.

So, after all that resentment rage, I came home, cried, cancelled the physio appointment so I could claw back some time and got on with writing.

Which led me to this epiphany. I've read books where that "I've got to get out of here" feeling came over me. But with books, all I needed to do was close it and move on to the next book on the TBR pile. I don't get "trapped" with it.

The thing is, you never want your reader to feel like they're trapped in your book and they want to get out. Because they will get out, and they might never come back.

Here again, is where structure will help you. (You knew we'd get back to structure, right?)

State the plan. 
Like a James Bond movie. Here's the villain, here's what he's up to, you have to stop him. And blow EVERYTHING up at the end like a good Bond.

Show where it's going.
Have characters openly acknowledge what they want and how they think they're going to get it.

Give it a time frame.
This adds urgency to the issue and keeps the pace tight. "If we don't solve this crime by midnight, the perp goes free." or "If Hamish doesn't get his work papers before the immigration inspectors come back next week, he'll be deported. To Scotland!"

Give it all you've got.
Above all, reward people for giving you their precious time. Write well, then write weller.

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