Today’s topic is pacing your fiction, and editing bad pacing.
There are two main points I want to make about pacing:
- You will never be able to truly judge your pacing. No author can. You’ll notice obvious issues, but there is a strong chance that the “boring” sections in your novel will interest you. (You wrote them for a reason.) The answer? Appeal to beta readers and editors.
- I’ve talked a lot about content edits lately, and pacing issues (so I’ve discovered) are generally content edits in the making.
That second point isn’t particularly profound, but I think keeping in mind that pacing problems are content problems helps a writer keep a solid handle on the editing process.
Pacing problems can result from various issues.
- You might be drawing things out too much (You have too much content and need to make cuts.)
- You might be rushing the plot in a confusing manner (You have to further explain/develop your content.)
- You might have too many “slow” scenes in a row (You need to rearrange your content).
- Sometimes your pacing feels too slow or too fast because it’s inconsistent from one large segment of the novel to another. When you aren’t altering pacing intentionally for artistic effect, this problem can require some adjustments.
SO REMEMBER: PACING ISSUES ARE CONTENT ISSUES (AND NOT SUPERFICIAL ONES)
In most cases, you can’t fix pacing by doing superficial touch-ups to the passage(s) in question. You have to really root out the issue at the core.
Depending on whether things are slowing down too much or speeding up too fast, you need to ask yourself question that go to the structural level.
Sometimes fixing structure can fix your pacing problems, because of the adjustments to content that go along with changing structure. So when pacing is off, think:
- How much of this scene can I just gut to keep things moving? To avoid stalling? What is TRULY needed?
- Could I cut the scene in its entirety and intersperse the relevant/ required information into other scenes here and there?
- Can I rearrange this series of scenes?
- I can’t remove this boring scene…. Can I ADD something interesting to it? Something that will further enhance/develop the plot?
That last question is more related to content than to structure, but hey…. I put it in here for a reason.
I wrote recently about pacing issues in the second part of my current novel. A love story subplot is kind of boring for my genre (as I had it at first, at least) and is taking up too much time.
Well, after writing that post I got to editing one of the love story scenes, and I not only cut a huge chunk of conversation…. HUGE chunk…. but I also realized I could add a tense component to the scene (from the reader’s perspective.)
That new tension, relating to an assassination attempt will really help my pacing because it relates back to the major plot arc of a war and a slavery ring and all the “big” stuff in the story.
So, what are your thoughts about pacing? Do you tend to have issues moving too quickly or stalling out? I tend to stall, I think, in my early drafts. I get too deep into philosophical stuff and emotions and rehash things too much.
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