Slow Down the Fast Parts

Tools for Editing

Tools for Editing

I am days away from a deadline, and in editing mode. Lots and lots going on with this process–a future blog post, I promise. But as I am printing pages, making notes, using the editing techniques I have learned over the years, I keep thinking about what my friend Ray Daniel said at his book launch for Terminated  a few weeks ago. It was advice he got from Lee Child. Make the slow parts fast, and the fast parts slow.

Sounds simple, right? It isn’t, trust me on that. But it is really helpful to think about when pacing a mystery. Sketch a room for a reader, but don’t bog them down in details until you need them. When someone has a gun, slow it down. Make the reader think about every breath.

I am also checking myself in two other areas right now. First, am I info dumping on the reader? What are the boring parts? How can I take out the parts the reader skips?

And second, am I playing fair with the reader? Keeping secrets is fine. But once the secret is revealed, I want the reader to feel surprised. Not like they want to throw the book across the room. Mystery readers understand that fine line well.

All this on top of checking on overuse of particular words or descriptions, confusing chapters, and grammar disasters. Busy times, but very rewarding.

Writer friends, what do you look for while editing?

Reader friends, what takes you out of a novel?

Back at it–will update you in a couple of weeks!


J.A. Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes is a mystery writer.

6 thoughts on “Slow Down the Fast Parts

  1. I’ve learned that it’s better to give the reader more information than you might originally desire. I have the issue of “holding all my punches” until the end, but that just makes the first 70% of the book aimless wandering. Some secrets and clues have to be dropped throughout in order to progress the plot, and I’m not even writing a mystery *nod*

    Also, totally agree about the fast/slow things. A cute character development scene should probably last about 2-3 pages max. A battle or action sequence might last 2 whole chapters.

  2. The main thing that takes me out of a mystery novel is incorrect or inconsistent facts. It makes me lose trust in the author. If a basic fact from life is wrong, what else is wrong? Sometimes in a mystery there is a deliberate inconsistency, such as two conflicting alibis, but if there is also an accidental one it makes me wonder whether the author is in control of the story or not. Like, was that a deliberate error I need to track, or was it just authorial carelessness. And mystery readers do tend to be careful and spot those!

    Factual errors bother me in other genres too, but I think it is worse in a mystery because the reader is trying to pay attention and spot the clues, so they have to be real clues.

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