Pace Yourself!

pacing 3I’ve reached the 70,000 word mark of my current work-in-progress. Only 20,000 words to go and the threads are thankfully coming together as I’d hoped. It’s at this stage that I think a lot about pacing. I’m approaching the finish line. Things are coming to a head. Tension and conflict are building inexorably, like a river about to burst its banks. But how to control the ebb and flow of the floodtide? If it rages too swiftly, it might peak early and end in melodrama or anti-climax. If I dam it too much, it may lose momentum. How do you get the pacing just so?

pacing 2Approaching the end, you want the reader to feel a real sense of urgency and desperation. If you’ve done your job well, the narrative and character arcs should be catapulting your story at a good speed towards the climax. But there are other ways to control pace that don’t involve the plot at all. Simple craft tips that are an essential part of a writer’s toolbox.

 

Write short sentences, scenes and chapters. Condense dialogue and description, thereby heightening the significance of each word. Cut scenes short at vital moments to raise anxiety and suspense levels in your reader. Remember to vary your pacing though, even in these final chapters. Longer sentences and more measured prose will slow down your story. This sort of contrast is still important to allow readers to catch their breath.

Pacing 1Another way to build tension is to write in slow motion. This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s a technique used all the time by film directors to increase dramatic impact. So at the crucial moment, say when a character drowns at sea, take your time. Describe the scene in close detail – the freezing bite of the waves, the taste of salt water, the horror of hopelessly holding onto that last breath. Or you might want to do the opposite. You might want to plunge your reader straight back into the action after the drowning. This is where I sometimes make an exception to the old show, don’t tell rule. Shock the reader with the brutal fact of the drowning by simply telling it in as blunt a way as possible.

My last tip is to let the setting work for you. A storm at sea instantly ramps up suspense. A calm cove does the opposite. Spend some time getting the location right and it will give your writing an automatic boost. My story is rushing towards its (hopefully) dramatic conclusion. So it’s nice to know that I don’t need to rely on structure alone to control the pace. I have a few craft tricks up my sleeve as well.

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Release Day For Currawong Creek & Giveaway

CC 4It’s that time of year again. Time to give my blog over to shameless self-promotion, for Currawong Creek will be officially released this coming Wednesday 26th June. I’m also approaching another very important milestone – 20,000 hits on my blog.

To celebrate, I’m offering two book-pack giveaways. Wasp Season, Brumby’s Run and Currawong Creek all bundled together with a ribbon around them! The launch for Currawong Creek will be held on the 3rd of July at Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St, Melbourne. 6.00 pm for a 6.30 pm start. You are all welcome, of course! I’m very excited about this book. And not only because for the first time I get to have bestselling author on the cover! Apart from its heartfelt and turbulent romance, Currawong Creek also tackles some topics that lie quite close to my heart. The importance and challenges of foster care, equine therapy for children, and land and water conservation in Australia – looking at coal seam gas mining in particular. I hope my book can spark some interesting debate on these issues.

Thank you 3A big thank you to Belinda Byrne and all the Penguin publishing team, for their generous support and faith in my work. Thanks to my lovely agent, Fran Moore of Curtis Brown Australia. And an even bigger thank you, of course, to my wonderful readers. Without you, none of this would have been possible!

 

Outback Currawong CreekOne more thing. Please don’t confuse my novel with a book of a similar title – Outback Currawong Creek, which is a stylish, coffee-table book filled with beautiful photographs of nude men. Oddly, some of them have an uncanny resemblance to the men in my book …

Penguin is also offering a pre-publication price promotion on my earlier novel, Brumby’s Run. The ebook version is only $4.99 across all sites. So if you haven’t read it, grab yourself a bargain! For your chance to win a three-book prize pack, please leave a comment on this post. I will announce the winners of the draw on Sunday July 14th. Good luck!

Heartfelt and passionate Australian story from the bestselling author of Brumby’s Run.

CC 1 003Currawong Creek is the story of Clare Mitchell, a young Brisbane lawyer who is very caught up in her career. When she becomes the unlikely carer of a little boy, a problem foster child named Jack, her ordered world is turned upside down. In desperation she takes leave of her job and goes with Jack to Currawong Creek, her grandfather’s Clydesdale stud at Merriang in the foothills of the beautiful Bunya Mountains.

Clare arrives to find part of the property leased by a local vet, Tom Lord. Tom is an advocate of equine therapy for children. Jack falls in love with Currawong’s animals, and Clare falls in love with Tom and the life of a country vet. But trouble is coming, in the form of the Pyramid mining company. Trouble that threatens to not only destroy Clare’s new-found happiness, but also the peace and beauty of the land she loves.

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A Satisfying Ending

The Final ActI’m sixty thousand words into my work-in-progress, two-thirds of the way through a novel which will end up being about ninety thousand words. If it was a screen play, I’d be entering the final act.

In the first third of the manuscript, the first act in screenwriting terms, the premise is set up for the reader. What sort of a story is it, and what  is it about? Who is the heroine and what does she want more than anything? Who is the antagonist? In many ways the antagonist becomes the engine room of the story. Meeting this character provides the reader with an answer to the final important question. What is the main conflict going to be?

Which wayIn the middle third of the manuscript, or second act, life is becoming progressively more difficult for my heroine, Nina. This is when an author can torture her main character, in fact it’s almost mandatory! Plans fail, alliances break down, dreams are dashed. Nina’s choices become harder and harder. She has, as the ancient Greeks would say, her long, dark night of the soul. My god, is Nina ever in a bind! But she never gives up. She remains single-mindedly determined to achieve her goal, whatever the sacrifice.

Minette Walters 2

Minette Walters

I’m about to launch into my last thirty thousand words – the final act. If I don’t provide my readers with a satisfying finish to the story, I’ll have wasted my time. But I must admit that, despite doing a lot more planning this time, I don’t know exactly how the book ends. I once watched a fascinating documentary on English crime writer Minette Walters. It followed the progress of her novel The Shape Of Snakes. Half way through this complicated psychological thriller about a twenty year old murder mystery, Minette still didn’t know who had committed the crime. Quite the panster! Apparently she writes all her books like that.

“It’s like flying by wire. You embark with nothing, just a tightrope across a chasm. It’s a much more enjoyable way to write because I have to work it out along with the reader. If I don’t know who did it until half way, the reader is going to be fairly fazed as well.” M Walters

There’s a lot of truth, for me anyway, in what she says. Plotting too carefully, can kill the interest and excitement in writing the story. It becomes a chore. So I won’t worry about my ending, not just yet. I’ll just pray for a visit from the plot fairy!

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Brumby’s Run Q&A

CC 3The launch date of my new novel, Currawong Creek is fast approaching. Penguin Books (Aust) is offering a digital price promotion ahead of the new title’s release. The ebook of Brumby’s Run (usually $12.99) is available at $4.99 until the 28th June. For those who haven’t read it, today I’m posting a Penguin Q&A about Brumby’s Run for your information. Here’s the link for last week’s Currawong Creek Q&A

Penguin Q & A with Jennifer Scoullar, author of Brumby’s Run

What is your book about?

2nd BR CoverBrumby’s Run is a story about a young woman named Samantha. She discovers she has a twin sister, Charlie, who is critically ill. City girl Sam soon finds herself running her sister’s farm, high in the Victorian alps. This new life, Charlie’s life, intrigues her. Bit by bit she falls in love with the mountains, the brumbies and with handsome neighbour Drew Chandler, her sister’s erstwhile lover. Sam begins to wish that Charlie might never come home.

What or who inspired it?

Originally I was inspired by the classic Banjo Paterson poem of the same name. It is one of my absolute favourites. But I was also inspired by the magnificent wild horses of the high country, and the fine work done by Australia’s various Brumby welfare associations.

90px-Penguin_logo_svgWhat was the biggest challenge, writing it?

My biggest challenge was finishing the novel in time to pitch to Penguin at the 2011 RWA Conference. I only just made it!       

What did you want to achieve with your book?

I wanted to share my love of Victoria’s beautiful upper Murray region, and pay tribute to the fabled wild horses of the high country. I also wanted to entertain readers with a passionate and unusual love story.

What do you hope for your book?

I hope it may be widely read and enjoyed.

Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?

The horses are based on my own, favourite animals, past and present.

Do you have a favourite character or one you really enjoyed writing?

I have a soft spot for Charlie, and really admire her spirit.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

One of the major themes in Brumby’s Run is our search for personal identity. The book also explores our relationship with animals and the environment.

high country horses

What made you set it in Victoria’s high country?I have a great love for this region, and it is where the Brumbies are.

Did the title come instantly to you or did you labour over it?I’d always wanted to base my novel on Banjo Paterson’s classic bush poem, Brumby’s Run, so the title was a given.

To whom have you dedicated the book and why?I’ve dedicated the book to Australia’s various Brumby welfare associations, in acknowledgement of the wonderful work they do protecting our wild horses.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?

Anybody who enjoys passionate love stories, set in Australia’s spectacular wild places.

Do you have a special ‘spot’ for writing at home? (If so, describe it)

Home Office I have a small office space off the lounge room (no door!), but with a noisy family, this isn’t always ideal. My favourite spot is over at the stables. Horses are good listeners, and don’t mind you reading aloud.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?

Silence. I’m easily distracted otherwise.

When did you start writing?

As a child I was an avid reader and loved writing stories and poems. I began my very first novel when I was eleven years old.

Did you always want to become an author?

I did, but then I grew up, and life kind of got in the way. There was long gap before I returned to my original passion for writing.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?

I was a horse-mad child. My family had a house in Melbourne as well as a property in the mountains. At every chance I escaped to the farm to be with my horses.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?

I graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Law and Jurisprudence, and worked for a while as a solicitor. I have also raised four children, with the youngest one still at school. Now that’s a job!

Describe yourself in three words?Passionate, compassionate and curious.

capricornWhat star sign are you and are you typical of it?

I’m a Capricorn. That’s an earth sign, and I do feel a deep spiritual connection to the  earth. Typically Capricorns are ambitious and serious, with a strong work ethic. I suppose that describes me. They are also supposed to be neat and tidy. That definitely doesn’t describe me!

What three things do you dislike?

Cruelty, greed and indifference.

What three things do you like?

My family, my animals and having the opportunity to write, in that order.

Have you a family, partner or are you single?

As I said before, I have four wonderful children.  I am divorced and do not have a partner. Maybe no real-life man can measure up to my fictional outback heroes!

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Currawong Creek – First Sighting

18th birthdayIt was my youngest son’s eighteenth birthday yesterday – a cause for much celebration! I also received an advance copy of Currawong Creek. It’s always a thrill to see your imaginary story in the form of a physical book for the first time. So all in all, a great week.

Today I’m posting a Penguin Q&A about Currawong Creek.

What is your new book about? Currawong Creek is the story of Clare Mitchell, a young Brisbane lawyer who is very caught up in her career. CC 1 003When she takes on the care of problem foster child Jack, her ordered life is turned upside down. Her partner’s betrayal is the final straw. She takes leave of her job and takes Jack to Currawong Creek, her grandfather’s Clydesdale stud at Merriang in the foothills of the beautiful Bunya Mountains. She arrives to find part of the property leased by local vet, Tom Lord, an advocate of equine therapy for traumatised children. Jack falls in love with Currawong’s animals, and Clare falls in love with Tom and the life of a country vet. But trouble is coming, in the form of the Pyramid Mining Company. Trouble that threatens to not only destroy Clare’s new-found happiness, but the tiny town of Merriang itself.

What or who inspired it? – I love Clydesdale horses! Also, I fostered kids for fifteen years, and saw many young mothers who needed help almost as much as their children did. There’s such a desperate shortage of foster carers in our community. Often, no suitable place can be found for a child after being Clydesdalestaken into care. So I thought I’d explore that problem in my story. There is so much evidence to show that animals can help to heal traumatised children. I had to give little Jack that chance!  The setting was inspired by Queensland’s Darling Downs, and its beautiful Bunya Mountains. A growing national concern about our land and water has led to a realisation that agricultural land and underground water are finite resources that should be protected. This is another issue explored in Currawong Creek. The characters though, are entirely fictional. I loved the idea of throwing a young, single, professional woman in the deep end with a difficult child – and a German Shepherd puppy! How would it change her? What problems would it cause? How would she cope?

What was the biggest challenge, writing it? – My biggest challenge was writing the relationship between Clare and Jack’s birth mother, Taylor. These are two women from very different worlds, yet they share a strong common bond. They both love Jack. Emotions naturally run high in that sort of a situation, and I wanted to show each of their positions with sympathy. It needed a delicate balance, and a lot of rewriting.

What did you want to achieve with your book? – I mainly wrote Currawong Creek to be an entertaining story. Along the way, it may raise awareness about the challenges and importance of fostering. It may encourage somebody to explore equine therapy as a healing tool for a child. That would be good. I also hope it may help spark debate about land and water conservation in Australia.

What do you hope for your book? – I hope my book will be widely read and enjoyed.

CurrawongAre there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you? – Samson, the German Shepherd puppy, has particular personal resonance for me. I raised and trained German Shepherds for many years, and he is a composite of my most intelligent and charming dogs. My father also passed on to me a particular love of Clydesdale horses, and I’ve always had a soft spot for currawongs!

Do you have a favourite character or one you really enjoyed writing? – Harry, Clare’s grandfather, was without doubt my favourite character. Such a sweet, old man with a great deal of courage and very fine principles. I’d love to know him in real life

What do you see as the major themes in your book? – I suppose one of the main themes is finding the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Also forgiveness and an exploration of the different kinds of love – love for a child, a lover and a grandfather.

What made you set it in …..? – The Bunya Mountains? They’re a magical place, Bunya Mountains 1like an island, surrounded by the plains and cleared farming land of the Darling Downs. A refuge of biodiversity, harbouring ancient plants and more than thirty rare and threatened species. Iconic Bunya pines (Araucaria bidwillii) tower over tall, moist rainforests along the crest of the range. Their distinctive dome-shaped crowns rise above the canopy, as they’ve done for millions of years. It’s a truly mysterious and romantic setting.

To whom have you dedicated the book and why? – Currawong Creek is dedicated to the Wilderness Society, as a tribute to the wonderful work they do, protecting and restoring wild places across Australia.

Who do you think will enjoy your book? – Anybody who loves kids, animals, the bush and a ripping love story.BB2013_Nominee