Hey, welcome back to my series about how to rewrite, revise, and edit a book after you write it! Last time, I talked about clarifying your character arcs, or emphasizing the ways in which your main characters change and grow over the course of the story. Today, we’ll talk about pacing.

 

Part of a 7 Part Series! HOW TO EDIT A NOVEL, PART TWO: FIX THE PACING #how to write a novel step by step #editing #fiction

 

“Pacing” refers to the speed at which the story progresses. In general, you don’t want some sections of the book to move slowly while others feel rushed. You want a consistent pace (hopefully not too slow) throughout the novel.

How do you do that? By making sure that the big, important events are spaced out fairly evenly.

If nothing big and exciting happens in the first couple of chapters of your novel, then it’s starting off slow, and it’s going to be hard to get your reader to keep going.

If you have a long stretch in the middle where nothing really interesting happens, then it drags in the middle. This is a common problem.

 

Here’s what you do to fix your pacing.

 

Make a list of 5 or 6 big, important events that happen in your book. At least a couple of these will probably be scenes you thought about when considering your character arcs.

For instance, if I were writing a pirate novel, I might have a list that looked something like this.

 

Tom joins the crew of a whaling ship

pirates attack ship; Tom hides in the hold, eating their hard tack and drinking their rum

one pirate, Horace, finds Tom, but chooses not to turn him in

Tom and Horace admit they are in love

Tom and Horace steal the ship while other pirates are partying in a port town

Tom and Horace start a new life in a romantic town in Spain

 

These are just the big turning points. They may not even be my personal favorite scenes, but they are the scenes in which everything changes.

(If you find that you don’t have many big things happening in your story, then you may have a serious challenge. Or a literary novel, haha.)

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve got these important turning points, write down the page number where each scene begins. It might look something like this:

 

Tom joins the crew of a whaling ship – p. 1 

pirates attack ship; Tom hides in the hold, eating their hard tack and drinking their rum – p. 172

one pirate, Horace, finds Tom a couple of weeks later, but chooses not to turn him in – p. 181

Tom and Horace admit they are in love – p. 193

Tom and Horace steal the ship while other pirates are partying in a port town – p. 277

Tom and Horace start a new life in a romantic town in Spain – p. 292

 

These events don’t have to be at perfectly regular intervals. It may be that big events in the last third or so of the novel are closer together, building up to an satisfying finale.

However, if you have a huge gap between important events (like I do between event #1 and event #2), or if you have turning points smooshed right up next to each other (like I do in the middle), then you have a pacing problem.

Looking at my story here, I might cut out big chunks of Tom’s time on the whaling ship in order to get to the pirates sooner. This isn’t Moby Dick, after all. I might add a scene dramatizing Tom’s time when he’s hiding in the hold. Maybe he has a close call with the captain, or figures out a clever way to keep the rats away. This is good — it will make Horace’s discovering of Tom more dramatic. I’ll give Tom and Horace at least a few scenes to get to know each other before they fall in love, which will be a lot more believable.

Adjusting the pacing might not be as drastic as adding or deleting scenes. You might just realize that one scene went into unnecessary detail, while a couple of other scenes are skeletal and need to be fleshed out.

You might not even have pacing issues if you followed an outline for your novel. However, even with outlines, many of us drift off course (and sometimes discover an even better story along the way).

Editing for pacing may seem daunting at first, especially if you’ve gotten used to the story as it is, but just diving into it is half the challenge.

Do you ever run into pacing issues with your novel? Do you have tips and tricks of your own to keep a novel going at a steady pace? Let us know in the comments!

And if you aren’t following the blog already, sign up below so that you won’t miss the next installments in the series. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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