But it wasn't good news.
My numeric scores were okay--she actually rated me fairly high for marketability. But in the comments section she wrote:
"This is a gripping beginning. While I like the clash of everyday with the magical, it seems a bit too fast-paced and jarring. I struggled to understand what was happening and how I was meant to feel about it all."
I confess, I did that most cliche of all character behaviors--I bit my lip. My story does start pretty fast, and it isn't just the beginning that's on caffeine. It rips along at a good clip throughout. And what good does it do to have a fascinating story if the reader can't keep up, and feels left in the dust? Now, to be fair, the editor in question is with a small press that specializes in quiet, lyrical books. But she brings up a good question. How fast is too fast? How does a writer know when the pacing is right?
Well, I'm obviously no expert, but I think it depends on the story. Some stories will unfold slowly, like a rose coming into bloom. Others are more like the flight of a hummingbird, darting here and there. Story pacing should be a reflection of the characters, as it's their story being told. If your character is given to introspection and takes time to savor the sunsets, the story should reflect that. Otoh, if the character is maybe just a tad hyperactive and can't walk through a room without setting something off, the plot of the story will need to keep up with this very active protagonist.
And what about the reader? I suspect pacing is a matter of taste, but I know it's my goal to write books that will reach as wide an audience as possible. In the case of the contest editor, I missed my reader. The story didn't do enough leisurely showing, and maybe could have used a bit more setting and pov contemplation. I feel the pace reflects the characters well and is about the pace my audience--young teens--would like...but I confess that I'm not one hundred percent sure. In fact, in my next novel, I plan to make an effort to slow down just a bit. Because as the story's narrator, I want my reader to feel emotionally grounded in my characters and fascinated by the unfolding story, and that might mean going slower. Spending more time establishing setting. Stopping to watch the rose as it blooms, and maybe plucking it off to take home as well.
What makes for good pacing, in your mind? How fast is too fast, and what would you consider too slow?