Once upon a time when I was in the throes of a first draft and was getting carried away with writing interior monologues, I pinned a handwritten note above my desk: “No rumination.” The novel wasn’t very plot oriented and even during the early stages I knew that any more stopping of action was not a good thing.

I thought about that warning sign yesterday when I was savoring Joan Silber’s The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long As It Takes. This very short book is part of the Graywolf Press “The Art of Series” and this volume is certainly worth reading.

Most children’s and YA novels don’t mess around too much with narrative time (The most obvious recent exception is of course Rebecca Stead’s Newbery winner, When You Reach Me). A straight-forward chronology over a short period of time is the usual pattern. But most stories of any length involve some pausing and flashback, and it’s important for a writer to make those transitions smooth ones.


p class=”MsoNormal”>Silber’s discussion is broken into these categories: Classic Time, Long Time, Switchback Time, Slowed Time, Fabulous Time, and Time as Subject. I have a library copy, but I suspect I’ll soon be ordering my own as well as looking into the other books in the series. (The Art of Syntax, by Ellen Bryant Voight, The Art of the Ending by Amy Bloom–Yum.)