Tag Archives: pacing

Take The Reins: Controlling Your Novel’s Pacing

Pacing is about building the thrill. It’s about keeping readers intrigued for the entire novel without exhausting them. This tends to be especially true for young adult novels, where events occur at a faster pace than adult books.

Pacing is the speed of your prose. For example, shorter sentences increase the pace, while longer ones slow it down. So, for action scenes, shorter sentences work better. For those languid, romantic ones, longer sentences will do.

Good pacing has an ebb and flow. There’s a balance between slower scenes and high-speed scenes. If you have a breakneck pace for the entire novel, readers will burn out. So much will be occurring so quickly that everything becomes a blur, and nothing, or very little, will be remembered. However, have too many slow scenes, and readers will be more likely to put down the novel. And not pick it back up.

Here are some tips to reach that right balance:

  1. Begin the story at a critical point. The protagonist is at a crossroads. Difficult choices must be made immediately. Doing this will instantly draw readers in.
  2. Cut the boring bits. Novels aren’t like real life in many ways. One of those ways is that only the most tension-filled and vital moments are included. Readers don’t care what random dreams character A had, or the three different outfits character B spent an hour trying on, or the multiple paragraphs on character C’s elementary school crush that moved away in the third grade.
  3. Dialogue vs. Description. Dialog tends to be read more quickly because the sentences are usually shorter. Descriptive scenes are denser, and so read more slowly. But, you need to be able to put both dialogue and description together to truly keep readers interested. Description that quickly sets the mood and shows that something’s about to happen, will lead readily into important dialog, and give readers a clear picture of what’s going on.
  4. Start each chapter with a crucial moment. Chapters allow for breaks in the story. However, many readers will read the first sentence or two of the next chapter to see what’s coming up. If those first sentences grab them, they’ll keep reading, instead of putting the book down.
  5. Don’t put all the action in one scene. By splitting the action up into several scenes, readers will be left with cliffhangers that will keep them reading. And when finishing off a series of scenes always include something that makes the story move forward.
  6. At times, slow it down. Sometimes pacing needs to slow down to keep balance in the novel. These times are when you add in relevant description. What people look like, what the weather is like, or where the events are occurring. This allows people to build images in their minds, and to add to those images later as more description is added throughout the novel.
  7. Unpredictability. When readers see what’s coming, they’ll assume and anticipate what happens. This takes a lot of power away from your scenes. If readers can’t guess what’s about to happen, then scenes become fascinating.

What kind of pacing do you prefer?

Jinkies! My Word Count’s Too Low: How to Increase the Length of Your Novel

Most word count problems deal with too many words. However, novels with too low of a word count do happen.

Just adding more words to your novel isn’t going to help, especially if you’ve got a good plot and subplots, believable characters, and a solid story. The first thing to do is to look at your target audience. For a good listing of genre guidelines, follow this link http://bit.ly/QuU7KS. It’ll lead you to Literary Rejections Word Count article.

After looking at that, if your word count is still too low, here are some things you can try:

  • Further develop a subplot. Subplots enhance the main plot. However, some subplots may be more meaningful than others, or may have larger consequences that we haven’t explored yet. If a girl sneaks out of her house to meet up with a guy, have her get caught. Show the fallout of that decision.
  • Pace yourself. Sometimes we get so excited with writing our first draft that we rush the buildup to the big scenes. Go back and add more to the buildup, so that when the big scenes and the climax comes the readers are tingling with the same excitement you felt writing that scene.
  • Bring a new character into the story. Introduce a character that will throw the protagonist for a loop. Don’t make the character’s intentions obvious. Maybe this character isn’t who he says he is. Maybe he’s the bad guy in disguise. Maybe he’s actually a good guy, but is made out to be someone to avoid.
  • Look at your ending. Search for any loose ends. Are there situations you alluded to but didn’t continue? If your protagonist took a picture of a suspected terrorist, don’t forget to at least contemplate giving it to the authorities.
  • Obstacles. Don’t just throw obstacles in to slow the protagonist down. Include situations that have an effect. If the protagonist has to cross a swinging bridge, don’t simply have the bridge collapse. Have someone the protagonist cares about get injured or die, or have the new route the protagonist takes introduce something else to the story.
  • Fill in those skip days. There are probably several places in your novel, where you skip over days. You say something like “two days later” or “later in the week.” What happened in those missing days? Sometimes there’s an entire chapter within those skipped days. However, only add a scene or a chapter if it works. If it throws off the rhythm, plot, or pacing of your novel, it may not be the best addition.

A novel that’s too short can be a pain, but spending some time thinking about what to add will help you increase your word count. And I’ll say this, if you end up being like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, word count won’t matter so much. But until you reach their level of fame, or get extremely lucky, it does.

Have you ever written a novel with too low of a word count?