Instantly Improve Your Novel’s Pacing


If your novel or story is suffering from slow pacing, dragging chapters, saggy prose, or just needs an overall pacing BOOST, then this revision hack might be just the thing you need.

I picked up this trick while revising my young adult, sci-fi novel, SKY WITHOUT STARS, which is a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, set on another planet. My co-author, Joanne Rendell and I spent the majority of the final revision working on a little problem called “pacing.” This is an element that I thought I had nailed down years ago. Apparently not. Pacing was a recurring note from our editor at Simon and Schuster. Nearly every other chapter, she left us a little comment along the lines of, “pacing needs work here” or “plot is slowing here.” It was driving us crazy! Until we discovered a brilliant writerly trick that I’m hereby dubbing “A Little Off the Top”

This handy revision hack was not only simple to implement, it completely supercharged the pacing of the novel. After implementing this hack on all of our problematic chapters, our editor wrote us an email  that said, “YES! PACING PROBLEMS SOLVED! LOVE THIS DRAFT!” And so I thought I’d share this little secret with you all. In case, you too, are suffering from pesky pacing problems.  

Essentially, the hack works like this:

1) Find a problematic scene or chapter in your novel (where the pacing feels slow) and figure out where the scene actually “starts.”

And when I say “start” I don’t mean, when you start describing setting, when you start delving into the characters’ thoughts, or exploring an important backstory,  or even when you describe what might have happened “off-page” between chapters. I mean when the ACTION starts. A conversation gets underway, a character walks into a room, a chase begins. You get the picture. Basically when do the characters start actually DOING something? That’s where your chapter should start.

2) Cut everything that comes before that

Okay, don’t freak out. You can still use all of that stuff, but you just have to use it more creatively. You have to weave it into the rest of the scene creatively.

For instance, can you describe the setting of the quaint italian town WHILE the car chase is going on? Instead of before? Can you wax poetic about the length of the love interest’s eyelashes after they’ve already started talking to your main character? 

You’ll be surprised at how cutting this stuff up front and interweaving it throughout the scene, lightens up the entire reader experience and turns a saggy, weighed down feeling scene, into a punchy dynamic one!

it’s like an adrenaline shot straight to the heart of your book. Because now every time your reader starts a new chapter, they’re immediately IN it. They’re immediately engaged. It might take a little finagling and finessing to get those key details you cut back into the scene somewhere else, but trust me the effort is worth it!

So give it a try. Put one of your scenes or chapters in your current manuscript to the test. Compare where YOU started the chapter to where the chapter actually STARTS and revise accordingly.

Get on the fast-track to an organized, efficient novel revision!

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