Novel Pacing

God, I’m probably the worst person to actually talk about this.

I’ve mentioned about how simple my outlining process is. If I overthink things, then I start to get creatively blocked and that’s no good. However, there are certain things that I take into consideration when I’m writing and where certain events happen in my projects.

Okay, I’m gonna keep these explanations as simple as I can because I try to keep my writing process as simple as I can because there’s so many methods out there and if one works for you and you think I’m full of shit, then by all means ignore me. This is one of those “your mileage my vary” sort of things and I’m only speaking from my experience and from what works for me.

Pacing is a bitch. If you get it wrong, your story doesn’t flow. If you go too fast, you fall short on your word count. If you go to slow, then your story is boring.

It is hard to get the pacing down perfectly.

One thing I like to do to maintain the pacing, is decide how many acts my story has. I’m pretty simple, so I usually keep the three act story structure, but four and five acts are also perfectly acceptable. So what I do to determine what happens in each act is that I take a piece of paper, turn it sideways and divide it up into ‘acts’. Then I start filling in these acts with major plot points in the approximate position where I want them to be in each act.

For example, if the catalyst for my hero’s actions is that his home village is destroyed by Nazi aliens and he is the lone survivor, then that happens right smack dab at the top of act 1. His “training” to get revenge would follow. Act 3 is where the big fight scene would be. His admission of love to his partner who had followed him the whole way would be somewhere between acts 3 and 4 depending on if his love interest is killed or if they get to live happily ever after, and so on and so forth. By the time I’ve filled out the major plot points, I have a pretty good flowchart of where things need to happen. Then I go back and fill in my chapter by chapter summary so that I have a clear idea of each point in each chapter and where the whole thing is going.

The chapter by chapter outline is my invaluable tool. I’m totally lost without it. I write a few sentences for each chapter, detailing the plot points that HAVE to happen and go from there. It’s super lenient and there’s a lot of wiggle room for additional ideas and stuff, as well as a totally natural feel. At least for me. It gives my characters room to grow and develop and stuff and I honestly can’t write a book without this outline anymore. It’s also really easy to go back and find what plot points you’re missing or need to add or whatever.

I find that starting with action instead of backstory or world building is also a completely invaluable tool. It gives your story momentum and something to build off of immediately. And, you know, an explosion and people screaming usually catches a reader’s attention right away. Why do you think most TV shows and movies start off with something huge and important happening right away?

This last point comes from my training as an improv comedian. This is one of the most important things I think a writer should remember about pacing. When we would do a scene, the best ‘directors’ would call an end to the scene when there was a really, REALLY good joke or pun. Why? Because if you don’t, then there’s an expectation of more. It becomes a challenge to “one up” the other actors and it’s tiring and almost impossible to rapid fire that many jokes and keep the scene moving forward. Keep that in mind when working out pacing in chapters and scenes. Where do you go from a big action or reveal? There’s always fallout and conflict and resolutions coming in a novel, so use that as the building blocks in the next scene for your next big reveal, and remember that it’s not always about making the one up from the last plot point, it’s about getting the story progression moving ahead.

Good luck and happy writing.

Oh, and if you have a favourite method for keeping your pacing in check, let me know in the comments!

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About kaikiriyama

I'm a writer. I write everything from shorts, to novels to screenplays and then some. I like comic books, ponies, zombies, pokemon, monsters, demons, vampires and mythology. I walk a fine line between badass, scary and girly. View all posts by kaikiriyama

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