WEDNESDAY WRITING TIP: Pacing and Marcus Sakey

Posted: February 24, 2010 in Wednesday's Writing Tip
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Have you ever read a mystery that should’ve been good but you just couldn’t quite get into it?

Marcus and me at Bouchercon

It’s like that snowblower of mine that wouldn’t work this morning–it starts and stops, it sputters, it kicks, it groans but it doesn’t quite get the job done.

Then there are other books that make you keep turning the page. Maybe it’s the short chapters or maybe it’s the hint of suspension, but you keep losing sleep and staying up late at night.

There are also the books that try for that and they start to cry “Wolf!” at you. They feed you so many red herrings that you get mercury poisoning. Every chapter is the Hindenburg, the Titanic and Pearl Harbor rolled together. It can’t sustain energy and they become tedious.

Good pacing doesn’t shove you into a dark alley. It coaxes you, luring you with the promise of a pay off. It keeps you hungry without feeding you empty calories.

You know it when you read it. My buddy Marcus Sakey rocks it. His books suck you in and before you know it the plane has landed, you’re sunburn or you missed the early and the late NFL games.

At the same time you don’t feel cheated into a cheap outcome or a fake turn of events. His books feel organic in the way they build suspenseful pacing.

Don’t go read a book on pacing. Go read Sakey.

Then curse when you can’t do it as well as he does.

  1. Jen Forbus says:

    Damn I love that picture! πŸ˜‰

  2. Mark Terry says:

    I curse him all the time. He and I and another guy did a book talk in Lake Orion a couple years ago. There’s something maddening about all that talent, charm, and good looks wrapped up in one person that just makes you want to sic yer dawgs on him. πŸ™‚

  3. D.B. Dean says:

    I know what you mean!.

    I just finished in one week the “Circle Trilogy” – three Nora Roberts books about vampires and such. I know she is a big seller and what not. But I felt like the three books were all foreplay and no big finish. When I got to the end of the third – and reached the final battle scene that all three books were leading up to I went…thats it – this is what it was leading to? I felt let down.

    I learned two “dont do that things” from her three books.

    1) never use the same description for something more than once in the first hundred pages. In her first book she says “ached like a tooth” twice in the first few chapters…its recent enough i remembered she had already used it and it messed up the flow.
    2) she built up this battle scene for three whole books – the battle to end all battles – this battle to save this world and many more worlds from evil…and it was over in a few pages. I felt like – so this is it? This is what all the fuss was about. I hate when I read a book and it finishes suddenly – your building to a climax and then bamn its done to fast to actually…errr climax πŸ˜€ You may have to sensor this post and its double entendres

  4. Keith Boggs says:

    Marcus always leaves me shaking after I read him. I e mailed him on time, right after aI finished his book. I could not read a thing I typed, I had been shaking, and had my hands on the wrong keys.

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