I am now 70 pages into the novel and taking a break to go on vacation with my lovely children. It is a good place to pause because the story has been set up and I now have to prepare the structure for the unfolding of the plot that has been established.
Speaking with other writers, it is clear to me that this is both an art and science. Hopefully, the reader is attached to the characters and wanting to know what’s going on behind all the clues that have been dropped, and follow the characters through their perilous journey. With a book like this one that has multiple plot lines and chapters that are written in the voices of the main players (rather than one linear narrative) it becomes imperative to keep things moving so the reader does not feel frustration.
For example, if the reader has just followed one character to the uncovering of a new clue, she will want to turn the page and find out what that clue is about. But it might be necessary to have that page bring her back to a second plot line which also needs to unfold at the same time. Argh! Just tell me already! We all tend to seek instant gratification – how many of us have skipped ahead to get a peek of what’s going to happen? And yet the joy of a suspense novel (and so many other delicious things in life ) is being made to wait.
I think the key here is make the chapters short and action packed so when the reader is required to switch gears she can quickly become engrossed, and after a couple of paragraphs, feel satisfied to be learning more about the parallel plot line. It is also important to return to the first plot line before the reader forgets what was happening in it or loses interest.
So much to consider! For me, it is very helpful to stop writing and plot out the majority of the book chapter by chapter. This can be painstaking because it takes time and effort and offers no relief for the burning desire to fill those blank pages. In some ways then, the reader and the author ultimately share the same experience of delayed gratification! Ah, but isn’t that the best kind?