There’s a writing skill that many novelists struggle with.
It’s something that read-a-chapter-a-month critique groups often miss.
We all know that you need to start off with an inciting incident — at least by the end of the first chapter. But after there, it can get a bit fuzzy.
3 Techniques To Help Your Pacing
First off – the high level stuff.
Now, planners are likely to be using a beat sheet of some sort like these linked by Jami Gold.
I know pantsers and even many plantsers don’t think they’re for them, however, I want to warn you against being too quick to reject them. I know going through them really helped me during my first (and 4th) round of revisions.
Next? Let’s look at the low level stuff.
Fast paced scenes should read fast. Slower paced scenes, one finds, often lend themselves toward literally causing the reader to slow down.
One easy way to do this? Sentence length! Here are a few examples by All Write Fiction.
But no matter how much (or little) you plan, no matter how you vary your sentence lengths and structures, you’ve got to live with the story a while before you can truly grok each scene’s full emotional impact.
We’ve looked high, we’ve looked low. Now? We’ve got to look at where the pieces go.
This is basically the reason Scrivener exists — or so I’ve heard. I’ve only used it once.
Sometimes, one scene fits better at a different place in your novel. The only problem is? You’ve got to make sure you haven’t referred to events that haven’t happened yet or triggered events that aren’t near your scene any more.
I’ve been thinking about the feedback I got on my work-in-progress #1, and a lot of it has to do with the pacing.
I’ve punched up the tension toward the opening and feel pretty solid about it, but I know, as it goes on, it mellows out for a while.
Scrolling through last night, I realized my next majorly-tense scene happens after the 50-page mark — past where query submission packages and most partial-requests end. So I started contemplating how to get them to those scenes faster…
Now, I wasn’t about to cut the chapters before that! Maybe they’re my darlings, but they’re full of world-building, character introduction, and some well-earned melancholy.
That’s when I realized, if I swapped which of the two settings that Lilivan, my main character, hits first, I’d increase the tension and her anxiety, making her work for [REDACTED].
That said, it requires cutting a character out of the now-first setting and swapping an innkeeper’s welcoming family with a stern hostel keeper.
I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I think it’s gonna be worth it.
Have you tried looking at your scenes, contemplating pacing, and truly considered if your novel just might work better if things happened in a different order?
Did it work?