3 Techniques to Fix Your Pacing

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


Beat Sheets

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.

Sentence Structure

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.

Shuffling Scenes!

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.


My Pacing

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?


3 Things To Consider Before “Fixing” Your Writing

3 Things To Consider Before “Fixing” Your Writing

How Do You Please Everyone With Your Writing?

Spoiler Alert: You can’t.

I’m back in the query trenches again, alternately deciding that “this is the agent for me!” and “no agent will ever love me!”

So, while I’m sorting through agent profiles, trying to decide who might “swipe right” back at me (right’s the one where they’re interested, too? I don’t know these things), I see agents posting about what they don’t want.

And there’s this knee-jerk reaction, when I recognize a trope from my writing in their ‘no thank you’ list. The feeling of, “Oh! I can fix it! And then you’ll love it!” Especially when you see so much of your story in their ‘please send me’ list.

But before you go an fix your story to appeal to that agent, you need to stop and consider a few things.

3 Things to Consider before “Fixing” Your Story:

1. Are there other Agents looking specifically for that trope?

If so? Well, there you go!

Just because one agent pooh-poohed the trope you played with in your story, didn’t mean every agent out there was shying away from it. Clearly, that agent just wasn’t the right match for you!

I know it can be hard to walk away from an agent that looks ideal!

You see them asking for X and Y, both of which your story does amazingly! And then you hit that “hard pass if the Manuscript does Z”. *insert screeching to a halt sound clip. And maybe a sad trombone noise*

It’s hard to stop yourself from justifying sending to them anyway. “I have everything they’re looking for,” you think.

Yes, but if you also have something in your manuscript that will make them auto-reject you, why set yourself up for failure?

You’ve heard the dating analogy. Everything else might be good, but if my date is looking for a partner who cooks, we’re not going to be a good fit.

You should be querying people who want what you have to offer, without that deal breaker.

2. Is Not Wanting That Trope A Trend?

Agents are people, and no two people are exactly the same. Which means they have different wants and needs.

If ONE agent talks about not wanting a specific trope, it can be hard not to start reading into what the other agents are saying. You start convincing yourself that the other agents were obliquely referencing that trope and that no one will ever want your novel.

Oh wait–that’s just me.

But EVERY story has its own tropes. It’s how you play with them, subvert them, or make them shine that makes your story unique.

Don’t immediately assume your story is broken! Look around at other agents, at other agencies. Look at what the editors are looking for and see if there’s a pattern.

If, and only if, you find a pattern of agents and editors saying specifically that they do not want this particular trope, that’s when you might think about looking at your manuscript.

3. How well integrated is this trope in your story?

Just because the publishing world isn’t in the mood for this trope, doesn’t mean there’s a problem with your story!

You have to think long and hard before removing a trope from your novel. Start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Does it make sense for your story?
  • How will this affect your characters?
    • How much of their backgrounds, personality, and goals are influenced by this trope?
  • Will your story be worse off by taking it out?
  • How well did you write the trope?
    • Perhaps you’ve gotten to the heart of the trope and made it real and fully three-dimensional!
    • Perhaps you’ve subverted the trope, in an unexpected, but fascinating manner.
    • Perhaps you’ve played with the trope, in fun and exciting ways!

If you’ve taken the trope and made it yours, then leave it be!

What Happens If You Leave It In And The Trope Causes People To Reject It?

A – Maybe your story ends up being a ‘practice book’…

It’s still not a waste of time. No one tells the musician who practices their scales that they’ve wasted time.

B – Maybe you need to wait for trends to change.

Shelve this project for 6 months or 6 years, and then send it out to agents again.

Don’t Give Up Hope Before You Query

It could be that your take on this trope is just what the industry has been waiting for!

So You’re In the Editing Doldrums Again? These 5 Sites Can Help

After you’ve written your novel and revised the BLEEP out of it, one thing remains:

To edit your manuscript!

 For those of you who are confused:

Revision worries about the characters, the plot, the setting, and the pacing.
In other words: The Big Picture. 
Editing is all about word flow and grammar.
In other words: The Details.

Here are the top sites I use when editing my novel.

5 Sites That Can Help You Edit Your Manuscript

1. Do you need a checklist to even know where to start?

One of the most useful checklists I’ve found was at theWriteLifeLogo:

It talks about standard grammar mistakes, crutch words, and bad habits.

Now, not all of the things it suggests cutting need to be deleted. Adverbs (often words ending in -ly) and passive voice both have their place, but cutting down on the instances of those things can make your writing stronger.

2. Do you need help replacing your crutch words?

Try your basic, friendly, online thesaurus for help at:


When you’re trying to replace a weak adverb or some passive-voice with a stronger verb, but you can’t think of any? Thesaurus time! (I have to confess, I actually just keep this open on a tab when I’m writing OR editing.)

3. Do you need more accurate terms?

Sometimes, the history of a word can help you find a better term. Just look it up on:

Etymology is the study of language. So, this site tells me where the word came from, similar words in different languages, and words that were used for this term in the past.


When you’re looking for a word that doesn’t sound so modern, so common…

Maybe you’re coming up with a name for a different type of magic?

Try looking up a root word related to the concept you’re attempting to convey and see if a historical version of the word will work. I’ve used this for magical methods, city names, and more.


4 & 5. Do you want to have your prose analyzed?

After you’ve done what you can, it’s time to bring in the hired guns:

The Hemingway App and Grammarly

Confession? I’m cheap.

I use these tools for free, online. Which means, their use is a little more limited. They won’t analyze my entire manuscript, sometimes even a chapter is too long for them–maybe I need shorter chapters?

But, if I copy/paste a section at a time into the HemingwayApp website or into a new Grammarly document, they will both provide me with a rather comprehensive analysis of my writing. Hemmingway: checking for sentence complexity and word choice, Grammarly: checking, unsurprisingly, my grammar.


With both of these tools, they can only run their algorithms on your writing, they can’t judge its effectiveness, simply the way it adheres to the rules. Thus, some of the feedback should be ignored. But they do give you a good sense of what might make your sentences better. Plus, they make certain when you violate some grammar or writing guideline, you’re doing it on purpose.

With these 5 sites, you can be pretty sure by the time you’re done, that your polished draft is a clean copy, that is easy to read.

Just recognize they can’t actually make your story good,  you’ve got to do that on your own.