Top 10 Tips for pacing your book
Sometimes is hard to determine if the pacing in your book is too fast or too slow depending on the rhythm and flow of your novel. And it also depends on your genre and the voice you want to convey.
Tip 1: Structure
Consider having an outline of your novel and this would be easy to see how you should pace your novel. You can see where you can increase the pace if it’s too slow and lagging or decrease the pace if it’s too fast and the pace seems exhausting. Creating a structure will help to map out your novel and clearly see where you can fix the pace.
Your novel should be a roller coaster of fast, medium, and slow pacing. I prefer to have this within the novel as well as within the chapters.
I breakdown my story into three chunks. Beginning, middle, and end and mimic a roller coaster.
The beginning should be where we meet the characters and know more about each one. The middle is some sort of climax such as a fight, heist, chase, or some sort of drama. The end should be the resolution, the getaway, the grand finale. However, within each chapter there should be a roller coaster ride as well. The tone should be able to uplift the reader, make you gasp, have your heart pumping, or make you laugh in a chapter. This is why your chapters should be long enough to give us background and short enough to give everything away. Think about writing a chapter as a 24 hour day. Be able to write about what happens in a times day because not everything happens in one moment. Things happens throughout the day. This is why line breaks or section breaks were created so that readers would be able to tell where one scene ends and the other begins in that one chapter.
Tip 2: Emotions and Pacing
Consider the characters experience and emotions in the chapter. If the character is experiencing sadness then slowing down the pace would engage the reader and help connect the reader with the character. Vice versa if the character is in a stressful situation or in a chase then the pacing should reflect the action being conveyed as well as the emotion that the character is experiencing.
Emotions can also be tricky to convey if the MC situation is also tricky. For example, lets say the MC’s house just burned down. This is a sad experience however, if it’s written while the MC is physically putting out the fire and getting their family out of the fire safely then this scene shouldn’t be sad. This will be a fast pace scene because of the situation. Even if the MC was not actively helping, the MC would be describing what is going on and their emotions at the time would probably not be a sad one but one of shock, maybe afraid, or even anger.
So, the situation in which the MC is experiencing also plays a role on how fast or how slow the scene should be.
Tip 3: Sentence Structure
Longer sentences go in slower paced scenes and shorter sentences should go in faster-paced scenes.
Also be able to break off paragraphs to break off the reading and slow the pace of the scene. Having a long paragraph can be a slow read and it can be too much given information at once.
For example, reading
‘The gun went pop, pop, pop, when Dominic fired his gun at the target while practicing his shots at the shooting range. His adrenaline was pumping even though it all went so fast, but to him it was a slow experience.’
‘The gun went,
When Dominic fired his gun at the target while practicing his shots at the shooting range. His adrenaline was pumping even though it all went so fast, but to him it was a slow experience.’
In my opinion, in the re-write, breaking up the popping sound made me slow down the scene and tied up the part where he said it was a slow experience to him.
Just keep in mind to maintain a varying length of sentences in your novel to avoid your entire novel to read choppy, repetitive, seem like a textbook read, or boring.
Tip 4: Details
If you’re writing a slower pace scene you heighten the detail and if your writing a fast pace scene keep your detail description at a minimum as adding too many details in a fast-paced scene can alter the pacing.
Don’t be too detailed in the action scene or write it too vaguely where the reader wouldn’t visualize the scene or it happened so fast that the reader had to make a double take at the blurred scene they just read.
‘The three white walls surrounding Dominic gave him a sense of loneliness. But as he walked up to the fifteen yard line and saw a blue man target ahead the sense of loneliness was replaced by beads of sweat which started to form on his forehead.
And although, he was in an indoor temperature controlled shooting range, his body temperature was rising. Because if he didn’t hit center mass on this last round he wouldn’t qualify for the police academy.
He squared his body towards the target.
He placed his left hand on his hip holster that housed his Glock 39.
And with a fluid motion, his left thumb pressed down, slid back, and unholstered his gun. A movement that he’s been practicing for months has finally made a big break for him. But he wasn’t in the clear yet.’
Being in your characters shoes makes it easier to experience what the character is experiencing. It also makes it easier to write the character’s emotions and how the pacing of that scene should be.
Tip 5: Filler
Readers should not be reading about the characters mundane daily activity. EXCEPTION: Unless whatever the characters are doing is critical to the story then there is no need to include it. Filler information is usually things that writers include to increase word count. This type of information with the exception mentioned above is unnecessary and slows the pacing of the novel.
For example, writing about, waking up, yawning, rubbing my eyes, placing one leg on the floor, putting my slippers on, stretching, walking to the bathroom, placing tooth paste on my tooth brush, turning on the faucet, and brushing my teeth is all filler information and unnecessary to the story. Unless something critical was about to happen in this scene.
Tip 6: Filter Word
Filter words are verbs that filter the readers experience through the main characters. See, hear, realize, think, decide, and know are some filter words most commonly used. I use them throughout my novel, however, it is used for a purpose. It is used to convey an important part of the story. Most of the time filter words distance the readers from the story. They also slow the pacing.
Tip 7: Dialogue Speed
If the characters are in a heated conversation then dialogue tags should be omitted or used sparingly especially if there are only two characters involved. In my novel, I gave my characters unique voices that even if there weren’t any dialogue tags you can more or less know who is the speaker by the way the characters voices are portrayed in the novel. Keep the narration relative and limited.
If the dialogue is relaxing then adding narrative to the scene is ideal such as describing body language, emotions, or their surrounding.
Tip 8: Cliffhangers
Cliffhangers keep the story moving. It keeps readers turning pages without putting the book down. Granted not every chapter ending will require a cliffhanger but it is great if added for dramatic effect, suspense, surprise, and emotional attachment.
I have to admit I love a good cliffhanger. I actually end most of my chapters on cliffhangers so that the reader will have something to look forward to in the next chapter. I also take it a step further and create a completely different chapter with another character so that the reader is even more intrigued to continue with the story.
It keeps readers engaged and sometimes it can be upsetting but at times you as the writer needs to redirect the reader into another direction so that you can introduce a new concept or revisit an old concept which leads to another drama/adventure for the MC and the reader.
Tip 9: Transitions
Adding transitions to keep the novel moving. I know I’m going to contradict myself here but this would be a great time to include some sort of filler. This is to connect the reader to the character and to add some sort of realism to the story as well as serving as a good transition from one scene to the next. Notice that in this instance the filler is used on purpose to move the story along.
Tip 10: Feedback
Ask other people about your pacing. Get beta readers or critique partners to assist in reading your novel so that they can give you feedback. Because something that may seem great to you since you are the writer may seem dull to others.