Have you ever melted chocolate over a double boiler? It happens slow and fast at the same time, much like the pacing in a novel. Patience is critical to success in both cases. Don’t walk away and assume your morsels (or chapters) are fine. They need constant movement.
In the final editing phases of my book, Seam Keepers, I am randomly choosing chapters in which to read for the velvetiness I desire. My hope is to smooth out the pacing between the high-tension scenes and the low-tension scenes evenly. I don’t want readers putting my book down but realize they might need a place to rest and breathe.
Continue stirring until smooth:
- Short, quick sentences are better for fast pacing…or moving the reader down the page with a sense of urgency. These are delicious in action scenes.
- Longer, thoughtful sentences are better for slower pacing…or I like to say allowing the reader to linger in a moment. These are perfect times to delve into more detail, for savoring revealed secrets, or illustrating internal character growth.
- Always delete the clunky wording, regardless of sentence length. THIS IS A HUGE ONE FOR ME. It’s my biggest downfall: wordiness. However, I am growing and working on this concept as we speak. I suppose in my chocolate analogy, this is where we consider calorie count.
- Acknowledge story structure – for example, if it is set in three acts, or a similar format, then it helps to know each plot point so every scene can build accordingly. At the inciting incident, mid-point, and climax, for example, there needs to be action…emotion…heart-wrenching shock and surprise. Well, I suppose not all in that order, but surely the essence of movement. I believe the goal of every writer is to move their reader in some way. Hopefully it’s forward (filled with a delicate blend of ups and downs, straightaways and bends) to the very end, leaving the reader begging for more.
My favorite books have always had impeccable pacing. When they end, I find myself longing to spend more time in the storyline, or sometimes at a loss, mourning the characters. I think this is why book series have become so popular. Readers want more…just like chocolate.
It’s all in the storytelling, yet much of that is strewn in the pacing! How do writers pull their readers along on the journey? They take some time to read through their manuscript and assess the flow.
Is it smooth or choppy?
Writers find the plot points. They speak from their character’s point of view as if they were in their character’s head. When a character needs a rest, the reader does too. But after that, hold on to your hat! By just managing sentence length at appropriate moments, authors relay cues to their readers to either hold a breath…or exhale.
There are other ways of managing pacing, of course, this is just one way to visualize the process. And chocolate seems like a pretty tasty way to go. Try it…take a bite!
Happy Writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, November 1, 2020