author, creative writing, writers, writing

Pacing your novel – 5 essential tips

There is little worse than reading a story with poor pacing. Whether it’s too slow and dull, or everything happens in a blur, you’ll find a lack of enjoyment. The key is getting the pacing just right, building tension, revealing information, holding back secrets, and ensuring suspense while maintaining reader interest. With that in mind, here are some essential tips for pacing your novel.

Start with the action
Slow starts will get you nowhere. It can be tempting to open with world building, character descriptions, and thorough backgrounds, but these details won’t capture readers’ attention. Don’t get me wrong; you need to know these things. But you should start with the action, rather than the lead up to it. That way you pull the reader in at once.

Avoid preambles
Your characters don’t need to enter scenes one by one, with introductions and descriptions. Again, it can be tempting to give each player in the story their own special intro, but it can get lengthy and dull. You can describe the characters as the story goes on, by showing who they are through their actions and words.

Reveal relevant information
Ensure all information you reveal as you write is relevant. This will prevent lengthy descriptions that do nothing to progress the story. Background, world building, and additional info should all play its part in moving scenes forward. If it doesn’t, cut it.

Keep out unneeded actions
Again, all actions should progress the story. It’s all very saying your character has a cup of tea, but you don’t need to describe the way they drain the mug, wash it up and put it back in the cupboard when they’re done. Try not to describe every motion and movement. Again, it slows the pace, and adds words that aren’t needed. On the flipside, if your character receives a frustrating text message and launches their mug across the room making it shatter, keep that. Some actions are very needed.

Consider the end of each scene
The way you end a scene can set the pace. You want to end in a place that makes sense, and leaves you ready to cut to another scene, perspective or timeframe. But you should also ensure it ends with tension, an unanswered question, or a shocking revelation so that your reader is hooked to get into the next chapter.

How do you ensure the pace of your novel is working? Share your thoughts below.

Until then,
Keep writing,

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10 thoughts on “Pacing your novel – 5 essential tips”

  1. Good advice, Meelie. For some reason, your first section reminded me of the Motown record formula the songwriters tended to use – rhythm up front. While formulaic, it got the listener interested in the song. Have a great rest of your weekend. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

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