Thoughts on Pacing and Writing in Public

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* A Note on Pacing
* Hmm. Writing in Public
* Yesterday
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I find ideas are the most ubiquitous things in human nature, besides the desire to procreate which starts as an idea anyway.” Michael Grant, POV character in the forthcoming Alibi: Lesson for Elsewhere by Robert J. Sadler

“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. The families of weaver ants engage in child labor, holding their larvae like shuttles to spin out the thread that sews the leaves together for their fungus gardens. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.” Lewis Thomas (1913-93), “The father of modern immunology and experimental pathology.”

“Publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. … It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” Anne Lamott

A Note on Pacing

As I left in a comment at TKZ yesterday,

“I use a cliffhanger at the end of every major scene and the end of every chapter. Sometimes those (scene and chapter end) are the same and sometimes they aren’t, depending on the story and the pacing and the characters’ voice.

“And immediately following the cliffhanger, at the beginning of the next scene or chapter, I use a hook to pull the reader into the story again and propel him or her forward.

“Pacing works, and it’s among the lesser-understood and more-important crafts in the art of writing fiction, whether short stories, novellas or novels.”

If you missed the Journal yesterday, I recommend you read that TKZ post.

Of Blackwell Ops 12: Nick Soldata (an action-adventure suspense crime thriller), my first reader wrote this:

“In reading this, I became consciously aware for the first time how everything you write—all of the descriptions of settings and people, all the activities along the way of researching the target, dealing with whatever intermediary the protagonist has to deal with for information, weaponry, etc., all of the protagonist’s thought processes as he’s considering his options and making his plans—all slowly but inexorably build tension and suspense until the moment of the hit.”

That’s the effect of pacing.

I was more than flattered. When I read the above for the first time, It reminded me of my own reading and re-reading of The Stand (Stephen King’s ultimate work, IMHO) and all that I learned from it on each successive pass about writing and about why and how he did what he did.

Why successive passes? Because I wasn’t ready to learn particular concepts the first time I reread and studied it. On later rereads, I learned more and more.

That’s one reason I consider King the only Stage 5 writer writing today. Only Hemingway, especially through his Collected Stories, even came close to teaching me as much about writing as I learned from studying King’s The Stand.

I recommend both of them.

Hmm. Writing in Public…

From the days of Harlan Ellison writing on a typewriter in a department store window and an assistant posting each page, fresh from the typewriter, on that window for the readers, writing in public isn’t an ego thing. It’s a transparency thing.

I encourage you to try it, whether to drive you to the writing computer or to shore-up your daily goals or whatever. Or try something that will nudge you to the degree you need to be nudged.

I use the Writing in Public substack primarily as another platform for teaching by example vs. via straight lecture. I hope those who followed along through Crowley and the two Blackwell Ops novels picked up something useful about the writing craft.

I would have leapt at the chance to watch Dean do that back in the day when he wrote a novel in 7 or 10 days amd reported on it in his blog.

I suspect actually following along as he wrote — vs. simply reading what he reported about the writing in his blog — would have been invaluable.

I would have wanted to see how he wrote. Whether he drew me into the story and kept me committed. And how he did that. Not to mention how he turned a phrase, how he used cliffhangers and hooks and pacing, and so on. But Substack wasn’t around back then.

And can you imagine having the opportunity to read along as King writes pretty much anything? I am so there. I’d even give up some of my own writing time for that.

As for the future of my own WIP substack, If I start a novel in a series I haven’t posted to the WIP yet or if I start a one-off, I might go back to writing in public.

Or I might not.

Especially with a one-off novel, I often “write to the beginning.” Not always or even often, but sometimes I write what’s given to me and kind of find the beginning of the story as I go.

When that happens, I delete whatever I wrote before that point so I won’t include it in the word count for the day. But you can’t go back and delete something from a post that’s already gone out on Substack.

I could post the day after I write something, but then I wouldn’t really be writing in public.

Plus posting to substack is a bit of a time suck. (grin) Posting a few chapters doesn’t take long, but when I add up all the little things I do that “don’t take long,” they consume a lot of time.


I broke one of my own rules. I went back and cycled through a story that’s long-since been in the can.

I want to bring my magic realism stories forward and post them to the Stanbrough Writes substack, the one where you get a free story every Friday.

But as I started reading over it, the pacing (primarily the paragraphing) was nothing short of horrible. Usually I let anything I’ve written stand as a marker of my skill at the time I wrote it.

But I decided that selection of 8 or 10 stories was worth my time to update. So I updated the first one (“Eufemia and José”) and posted it to the SW substack to go live on December 22. The others will go live on the following Fridays.

But I’ll update the others as I have time. Today, I want to write something new.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Why Activism Leads to So Much Bad Writing Um, because you’re there to entertain, not preach.

The Stories of William Faulkner: Mississippi’s Talebearer

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1160

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. To date…… XXXXX

Fiction for November…………………… 52368
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 371012
Fiction since August 1………………… 38710
Nonfiction for November……………… 17930
Nonfiction for the year……………… 245820
Annual consumable words………… 613325

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 79
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.