This weekend I read a really fine novel by Willy Vlautin. The Motel Life is a truly affecting novel. Its sparse, beautiful prose is very fluid and the reading experience just flies by. The characterization is strong-the feel of the western cities (Elko and Reno most prominently) authentic.
And it checks in at a svelte 208 pages. I pay close attention to pacing when I read and I was amazed when I started chapter eight on page thirty.
There seems to me to be a new paradigm in plotting, and much of this can be attributed to one James Patterson. This new tradition is forty or fifty chapters of three and four pages a stretch. It makes for a unique read, lending an almost cinematic appeal to the act of reading a novel as each chapter constitutes a short scene.
Now clearly there is no right or wrong way to do this, and I understand that not every writer can (or has the authorial license to do so) put together a Stephen King-sized manuscript, but I do strive to create a little bit larger chapters in my own composition. I think that if one aspect of the writing suffers in this approach to plotting, it's the construction of setting. I don't need every detail, but I'm a sucker for a good physical description of "place," and that often seems short-changed in this approach to shorter novels.
This is a topic I think about often just prior to getting into the day's work. How much detail does the audience need to actually see this passage/action/exchange? How much detail do I need to include to actually see this come to successful fruition?
So please dish if you have advice. Do you break your novels into parts and add in page breaks? Do you keep a running timeline (like on 24) with dates and times at the heading of each chapter? How do you pace your chapters?
Oh, and Vlautin's fine book is being compared to the works of Ray Carver and John Steinbeck, and I won't say that praise is misplaced. It's really a nice read and I highly recommend it.