Walk. Trot. Canter. Gallop. Each of these words conjures up precisely both the speed and style of movement of the horse.
On a writing course once we were tasked with finding as many possible ways of replacing the word entered in the phrase She entered the room. I might never get the chance to use She hopscotched into the room in a piece of fiction, but I learnt something in thinking it up.
As writers, we know that in fiction and in creative non-fiction narrative time does not have to follow chronological time. Five years can be summarised in a sentence; five minutes can be stretched out over a whole chapter or short story. Pace draws attention to what’s important and cranks up the tension, but that doesn’t only apply to the obviously exciting incidents. A skilled writer can spend ten pages on a character getting out of bed.
But it is hard to get the pace right. As readers and writers we have different preferences and needs. Although I’m not a great fan of the page-turning thriller, it’s not unusual in my reviews to find me bemoaning a slow pace.
Right now, I’m having problems with the pace of my reading. Over thirty books in the first two months; if I carry on at this rate I have read a hundred and eighty books in the year. Not that I begrudge the reading, but I’m having a problem squeezing in my reviews. I’ve been experimenting with writing shorter accounts with a couple of books in each post. I’d be interested to hear whether this pace is working for you.
Thirteen books reviewed in February; if you’ve missed any, you can catch up by clicking on the image. It’s sheer serendipity that it’s been a month of philosophising about identity and that almost a quarter of the novels are published by independent press Sandstone. (If you’d like to support the indies and you can get yourself to Leicester, there’s a great free festival States of Independence on 12 March.
I’m sure writing flash fiction is helping me the economical with my words in my longer works. And, guess what? This week’s prompt is to write a 99-word story about galloping. After a fairly sluggish period, I had an extremely productive time last week, producing first drafts of three short stories that had been fermenting in my mind for some years. It can feel so inspiring when your brain is buzzing with ideas, but it can be hard to settle to a pace that doesn’t burn you out. That’s a challenge for all of us to a degree, but especially so for those living with bipolar disorder. It’s also been a problem for the character in Jamie Mollart’s debut novel, The Zoo (incidentally, another from Sandstone). I’ve drawn on all those themes for my flash, as well as drawing on Lily King’s take on the euphoria of creativity, with a touch of neurodiversity:
Synapses ablaze, ideas breed ideas, plans spawn plans. Brain fresh as a daisy, head clear as a bell, pardon my cliché, but I’ve got to move on. No time to eat and sleep is for wimps; lying down is like pressing the accelerator pedal on my mind. Migrant crisis? World peace? Global warming? Got them sorted before breakfast, with the Man-Booker and Nobel prizes in the bag.
Then wham! Floored! As if they’ve pulled the plug on my vitality, wiped my hard drive. Do I want tea or coffee? Leave me alone, that’s too hard to decide.