Thursday, August 31, 2023

Six Tips to Improve Your Novel's Pacing

In novel writing, pacing is a critical tool in your writer’s box of tricks. If the pacing is too slow, it drags out the action, interferes or eliminates any tension or suspense you were trying to build and makes a story boring.

Some things that might slow down your pacing:

1. Superfluous dialogue: Common examples would be when one character meets another character and a lot of words and time are wasted on the “hellos, how are you, blah, blah,” or the good byes. Cut to the point of the conversation.  “Did the jury reach a verdict?”  “Did the doctor call?”

2. Long descriptions on setting: We need to know the specifics, but not every minutia of the setting. Telling us the Victorian house was surrounded by Lilac bushes and the sweet smell filled the front rooms gives  us specific details. Victorian house, Lilac bushes and it introduces a smell. Telling us when and where the Lilac bushes were bought, their height and width, how often they bloom or are fertilized is not vital  information unless that somehow reveals character or will play in to the plot.

3. Info dumps: Be sparing and discriminating when telling the backstory or reminiscing. Too many paragraphs or pages of information can be boring and slows down the story’s pace. Try to weave in the crucial details throughout the story.

4. Not enough plot: This can cause the writer to meander and use fillers getting the writer further away from the plot. The answer could be more subplots. This will also help your characterization by giving them more depth and making them more three dimensional.

5. Too much time inside your character's head: When we read pages and pages of your character's thoughts and feelings, there is no action. It's important to know what your character is thinking and feeling in order to learn their motivation, but be mindful of how long the reader is inside their head.

6. Timing: When we spend time on a scene or specific detail, we are telling the readers, this is significant. We are shining a light on it, pay attention to it. Be aware of this when you are editing, cut those long scenes of description or even dialogue if it’s not essential to the plot of character development.

Your story’s pacing is the right amount of dialogue, information, action and plotting.


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