Is Pacing Directly Proportional To The Blurb?

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December 23, 2013 by Ifeoma Dennis

23rd decSomething happened.

After writing the first two scenes of chapter seven on Saturday, it dawned on me I was only two chapters away from the first plot point (aka end of act 1) and since each chapter runs for an average of ten pages, I was looking at my first act being about ninety pages.

And thing is, my now-old query describes my first act, more or less… so my internal editor rang this question:

So you’re telling me your readers would go through the first ninety pages knowing what exactly comes next? Very enticing. 

 

It was a disturbing thought. I loved my old query and have worked on it for sooo long, although there were some things I still had to tweak based on the feedback I got from Amanda and Natalie (who have not read my WIP). But thing is, in all the versions, I focused on the events right up to the first plot point.

Which would have worked if my first act ran for 30 pages and the other acts took up the remaining 324 pages (my first draft was 354 pages).

 

I honestly have no idea how this has never occurred to me. My query describing at least 90 pages of my book meant the story won’t pick up for my readers until after that.

And it led me to another thought: could it be that queries/blurbs can actually affect the perceived pacing of books?

I think it does.

Okay, this is a bad example of a query but consider this:

When Ada goes to the palace, she meets an old man that holds the key to the portal she’s been looking for. But he wouldn’t give her the key and Ada is lost until a house-elf whispers she has to find Gale from the other kingdom. Only Gale can make the old man give her the key. But the portal would prove to contain more than she can bear.

 

And this:

Ada meets an old man that holds the key to the portal she’s been looking for. But when he wouldn’t give it to her, she has to decide if the sacrifices she will make to get it from him would be worth what she finds in the portal.

 

These two queries are talking of the same plot, and might actually be intriguing in their own rights…but it might be possible that an agent/reader who reads the first one would consider the book slow and may even drop it because “nothing happens in over 100 pages…yawn”, while someone who reads the second one might think the book has great pacing.

Which means sometimes, pacing might not be a problem of our novels but our blurbs.

 

I still haven’t got a very good hang of mine, although I was able to work it to cover about 60 pages…so I still have a few things to tweak if I want it to cover only the events of the first three chapters. There are actually two words in the query that gives it a leap from 30 pages to 60 pages, so if I can find out how to side-step them and still make the query tense, then it’d be fine. I guess.

I can’t wait to finish this second draft so my CPs can read it and tell me how the pacing feels overall in relation to the query/blurb.

How about you? What percentage of your story does your query cover?

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10 thoughts on “Is Pacing Directly Proportional To The Blurb?

  1. amandashayne says:

    I’ve been waiting to read this all week! Very interesting… I have to copy Krystal Jane when it comes to queries: *head explodes* I’ve learned about them, but not extensively, so I can’t even remember what I thought SHOULD be covered in a query in terms of percentage of your book. It’s interesting that that might reflect on the perceived pacing of your book and is definitely something I’ll have to think about when I write mine. Thanks for sharing, Ifeoma! 🙂

  2. Uh oh, I’ve written 104% (haha) of my novel and still have no query. It might be time for me to start looking into the business-side of my writing. *sigh*

    Great observation about the queries/blurbs correlation!

    • Don’t worry about that, Jodi!

      It’s like writing your recipe before you’re done with your cooking, so I’m not sure I’m setting a good example. 😉

      On the brighter side of things, does 104% done mean you’ve written past the point I read?? 😀 Send away and make my Christmas, please!

  3. Yikes, my current query covers about 2/3 of the book, plot-wise – but only the main plot, no subplots or anything. It’s not really a blurb – I probably wouldn’t give so much away if it was actually back-cover copy, but I wanted agents to get a taste of the main conflict of the book. I guess it’s partly because UK agents usually ask for a full synopsis and sample chapters with the query so there’s usually no need to put everything in the query.

  4. Intriguing post! I’ve been thinking about this a bit since finishing a LitReactor class on queries. I know every agent has their own personal preferences, but the agent who taught it suggested the query should, in general, get us through the inciting incident, and discuss the “half-story.” No hard and fast rule, but she said stick to a few details about the inciting incident and how that feeds into the plot, then give slightly more vague details about where the story will take us without revealing any huge surprises.

    The balance between details and vagueness is sort of an art. Obviously you don’t want to be so vague that the story sounds like it could be *any* story, but you don’t want to walk the reader of the query by the hand through all the plot points. I found her take on it really interesting because I think up until then, I’d been trying to squeeze a mini-synopsis into most queries.

    But I’d never really thought about the pacing of the query vs. the actual MS. I think if you can get the excitement and problem of the inciting incident across, hinting at the escalating events to follow, then you’ve succeeded in making the reader want to know more. But since a query is so compact compared to the full plot, and shouldn’t reveal all the twists, then comparing its pacing to the story’s is apples and oranges. Queries are so darn tricky!!

    • Yes! The balance between details and sufficient vagueness IS an art. And a very tricky one. 😉

      And thank you so so much for this insight on queries you got from your class.
      It almost surmises what I’m trying to say. The question is how much of that “half-story” should be in a query? Or rather, how do you hint at the “half-story” without slowing down the pacing of the real book (since the reader already knows what’s coming from the query)?

  5. krystal jane says:

    Oh gosh, queries. *head explodes*
    Really though, my queries usually cover just about everything, except for how the story ends. So I guess around 80%.

    The good thing about your second example is brevity. You cover the same amount of ground in a smaller space. I think there are more surprises that way while giving the reader a hint of what’s to come at the same time. 🙂

    By the way, I would totally read about Ada. 😀

    • Thanks! I’d read about her too if someone writes about it. 😀

      You have a point with yours as well, though. I guess in a way, it’s also “how” the query covers how much it covers…don’t know if this makes sense. There are words that might be used and it won’t give away much of the query even if it covers 80% of the plot.

      But I think it might be safer having a query that covers the first 30 pages, just in case one gets a partial request. Not that I’m a pro or anything 😀

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