Essay–Pace, Pacing, Paced
The Black is the first book I’ve written that has sold a ton of copies. It’s also the first story of mine to have 45 reviews on Amazon.com. I know I shouldn’t look at the reviews. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. I can’t help myself.
There have been a few that have driven me crazy. I read them, I blink, I read them again, and they still make no sense. There are others, however, that burrow into my brain. I make those mea culpa notes to myself and figure I’ll do better next time. It’s too late to “fix” this book in any way, shape or form. The damned thing, for better or worse, is out there in the world. So all I can do is try and carry any lessons I learn into the next effort.
Writing, music, visual art, and etc are all complex animals in the way they are consumed and enjoyed. It’s impossible for someone to create something that everyone in the universe will love. But rest assured, everyone has a reason for loving or hating art. And I use the term “art” loosely, especially when speaking of my own work. But enough of that. I have something else on my mind.
The Black is the second novel I’ve written that is a “slow burn.” Closet Treats was the first. If you’re not sure what I mean by “slow burn,” I’ll put it in very simple terms. Those two books were written as thrillers. They both start with lengthy introductions to the characters and the occasional tweak of the fear bone. They are both designed to build suspense and grab a reader’s attention until the roller coaster finishes climbing that first real hill. After that? It’s on. And they move. Fast.
But how the hell do you make sure your riders aren’t bored while climbing that first hill? How do you balance the proverbial need for speed versus the need to build suspense? And how do you make it work for everyone?
Simple: you don’t. From the various comments I’ve seen, the suspense build up worked, and yet it didn’t. Some readers found it too slow. Others found the book too damned short. What gives here?
Like I said, you can’t make everyone happy. If the book failed for the majority of those writing the reviews, I’d guess you could say I screwed the pooch. Instead, it appears I hit the sweet spot for some and failed for many others. Oh well.
So what do I do next? Keep writing.
There are some tricks I can use in the next book. They’re not really “tricks” so much as literary devices to provide more foreshadowing, more tension from the get-go. And perhaps I can stoke the imagination so that folks desperately want to find out what happens past the “boring” chapters.
A little more foreshadowing. A little more bumps in the road early on. A little more conflict on page 3. Blah blah blah… And yet I still won’t please everyone. Fine, whatever. As I’ve worked on The Black audiobook, I’ve noticed things I could have done to make it move faster. I read. I study. I write. I publish. I start the whole process over again.
I’ll get better at all of this. Hell, every book has been an improvement on the last. With that in mind, maybe I’ll finish the perfect novel on my death bed. And there will still be some person out there that doesn’t care for it. And that’s reality, kids. As long as “most” of the audience likes it (3 stars or better), then I guess I’m doing something right. Hopefully, I’ll keep doing that “something.” I’m sure as hell trying.