I am very nearly finished with my Major Revision, and the work is going swimmingly since my Post-It(tm) epiphany earlier this week. I did a bunch of work last night, mostly cutting dialog, it turns out. I have a bad habit of writing repetitive dialog, like this:
Antonio: So I'm going to kill you.
Babar: You're going to kill me? With a sword?
Antonio: Yes, with a sword. This one, in fact.
Babar: It goes without saying that I'd rather you didn't.
Antonio: While I can understand your preference to not be killed by me (or, likely, by anyone), I shall nonetheless proceed to slay you. Prepare to die.
Babar: In that case, we must fight. Have at you!
Et cetera. Obviously the above can all be reduced to:
Antonio: I'm going to kill you.
Babar: Have at you! (draws sword)
While dialog presented in this manner is sometimes realistic because people do ask clarifying questions and often just don't know what you mean, in most cases that sort of realistic dialog is not appropriate for fiction.
More than it being dull on its own, repetition like this really slows the pace in any passage. I became acutely aware of this last night (or maybe it was the night before; it's all a blur these days) when I hit a section of my book where it gets really truly very exciting and I stopped editing and just read what I'd written, carried away by the story. I had no idea, frankly, that my book so picked up the pace in the last 1/3 and ran so precipitously toward the climax.
Which is all very pleasing, but suddenly*, after a couple dozen pages of exhilarating prose, the story tripped over its own feet and ground almost to a halt. That's right, I had hit a chunk of my repetitive prose and I wanted to shout at my characters, "Will you just get on with it?"
Now, it's fine for me to act that way in the privacy of my own home, because as author I can make the characters get on with things by cutting all the junk prose. It's less fine for the reader to say that to my characters, and I've now become hyperaware of pacing, especially in the second half of the book. There are some scenes that exist purely for expository purposes, necessary for the action of the end of the book, but they sometimes feel static. I'm going to revisit those scenes after I've done the bulk of my revisions and see if I can give them some forward momentum.
Because momentum is really what I'm looking for in the second half of the book, and I have an image of the reader being carried forward down a hill that becomes progressively steeper toward the bottom, the reader traveling faster and faster until hitting the bottom of the hill. Like the old cartoon snowballs turning into huge avalanches as they roll down snowy slopes. So I'll be doing one editing pass just for pacing. This is sort of like Lady Glamis' technique of layers.
The surprise for me in all this is that I am now aware of momentum and pacing in a new way. I'd always sort of approached this intuitively, not really knowing at a conscious level that I was fussing with the pace of the story. Now it's suddenly* another story element over which I have direct control. So, huh. More and more, I look at novels as something like machines, with all sorts of interconnected parts, moving at different speeds and in different directions.
* used (twice!) for Davin's amusement