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How to Master Pace and Flow in Your Novel

By on August 28, 2014 . Category Column

One of the most elusive aspects of writing is getting your pacing right. Is your book moving too fast? Too slow? Any scenes that feel draggy or rushed can mess with your reader’s enjoyment, and hurt an otherwise fantastic story.

Here are some things to watch out for in your writing, as well as a few tips for improving the flow of your novel:

 

Don’t Be Repetitive

This one comes from personal experience, as I just had it pointed out to me in one of my novels that I was restating something several times. It made sense in the context of the story, as my main character was having to share details of the strange events happening in her life with several different people, but from the audience’s perspective, it gets redundant fast.  Use summarization and to move through these scenes more quickly.

Something as simple as, “She explained the events of the previous night to her friends,” is enough to get the point across to a reader, especially if said events were actually described in the story. You’ll recall I recently mentioned that telling isn’t always the worst thing ever—you want to avoid it most of the time, sure, but sprinkled here and there to save time and leave space for more interesting details? Perfect.

 

Check Your Transitions

One of the places we tend to trip up is when we shift scenes. In our own minds, it’s clear that the setting has shifted, since we know exactly what’s going on in the story. It won’t be as obvious to our readers, though, who aren’t privy to all the intricate details of the novel that its author knows. Checking your transitions is important because there’s a good chance you’ve skimmed some facts your reader needs to follow along.  This can be a place where things progress too quickly.

 

Check Your Detailed Scenes

Scenes where you get into a lot of detail—describing a setting, a person, an event, or an emotion—can be slow and drawn-out. It’s another easy area to get mixed up as an author, because we might think we’re resolving the “moving too fast/too few details” problem listed above, overcompensating with an overload of information. It can get boring fast, so check for scenes that seek to clarify too much, as it can cause readers to want to put your book down (and maybe never return!).

Get Your Beta Readers on the Job

The best—absolute best—way to make sure your pacing and flow are in check is to have other people read your work. It’s scary, sure, but it’s going to help you catch all the errors you’re blind to at this point. You probably won’t notice half the errors I mentioned above, but a reader certainly will.  That’s why they’re so valuable, and so indispensable to your writing career.

 

It’s good to do a read-through of your manuscript with these specific questions in mind, and of course to hand it off to some trusted proof-readers. When you read with the intention of finding these errors, you’re more likely to notice them, and that will improve your writing by leaps and bounds!

 

How do you manage the pace and flow of your novels?

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