All About Pacing When Writing Your Novel

Pacing is one of the things I used to struggle with in my writing on a day to day basis. How do you know if you are boring your readers, or if you aren't explaining enough. To complicate things more, pacing is also evaluated by building enough tension, too much tension, or too little.

A common myth is that your word count determines pacing. This is not always true but not always wrong. People tend to judge a book that has too many words for its genre slow-paced, and too little words fast-paced. But you need to know how deep your story will go, how different your world and characters are from the real world, and what you are trying to tell. A fantasy novel may be longer due to the complex characters and settings. Once you know these types of genre norms and the simplicity/complexity of your novel, set a word count goal. 

Another myth is that you must go in an evenly paced fashion. This is not always the case. Let's say that an important test is given on one day, and the answers come in 2 weeks. Unless there is something noteworthy that happens during that time, you are more than welcome to skip ahead in time. Although, you need to make it clear to your readers about how much time has passed. 

Think about how you want to reveal information and build tension in the right places. A common mistake is the info dump, where you reveal too much at one time instead of giving smaller hints that are spread out. This can also create more tension. 

Change pacing based on what the scene is about. If the scene is a crucial part of the story you will take more time to explain it, whereas you might explain a character brushing their teeth in a sentence or phrase, or even not at all. 

Pacing is largely something that is harder to understand as you, the writer. I usually will see my problems in the second draft when I come back to it months after and look at it as if I am a reader. The reason you may not see the problems when writing is that you might have explained or thought about it in your head, and don't understand how to project it onto the page so readers are understanding what you are thinking. Something that makes sense to you might not make sense to your readers, so explain. The tricky part is remembering how not to go overboard. 


Comments

  1. Similar to previous posts, this post is also nice and informative. While I was reading this post, I instantly remembered a short story by Alan Watts, which I would like to share it here and to know your idea about the pace of this story:

    Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

    The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”

    The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

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    1. That is an interesting story, thank you for sharing it! For the pace of this story, it all depends on what this story is supposed to be. I am considering it now as flash fiction, a story with about 250-500 words. In that aspect, it is great with pacing, sitting at around 200 words.

      Another reason I say that I like the pacing for this story is that each scene/action is explained in the same depth, because of the similarity in the actions.

      I liked the way that the tension was built. We expected something else to happen, at some point, and it never did. Things kept changing, until we, the readers, come to an understanding that things can always change.

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