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Writing a Novel? Pacing

By Joanne Reid

Pacing...keeping the story moving, getting rid of the saggy bits and moving the characters forward. That is what this article is about.

You have to capture the reader's interest in the first few paragraphs of your novel and you have to provide a satisfying ending. The difficult part is making the whole novel move from one point to the next in a smooth, entertaining and compelling manner.

ACTION is the single most compelling page-turner there is in fiction. However, there is a fine line between adding exciting scenes and deadening the reader's emotions by having endless big events rain down on the characters.

Action does not have to be a big event. Movement and dialogue provide action enough and there should be some of either on nearly every page. Otherwise, you may have your characters sitting in one place and mulling over their thoughts or, worse, having their thoughts explained to the reader. People tend to skip parts like this.

In genre and mainstream novels, it is a good idea to have a big event every three chapters or so. Something must happen to propel the characters forward.

SUBPLOTS are necessary in order to provide contrast and backdrop for the main action. At least twice, the subplot and the main plot should cross each other's path. In my Queen of Diamonds, the subplot of Fersen and the Queen touches the main plot when Fersen takes Gilbert to Sweden because Fersen needs to be away from the Queen to avoid rumors about her having an affair and again when Fersen intercedes with the Queen on Nicole's behalf.

MINOR CHARACTERS help provide background and relief from the main plot. Again, in the Queen of Diamonds, Cecile Vergennes appears from time to time and causes problems for Nicole. As well as complicating Nicole's life, she represents a certain segment of Paris society at the time.

Layering the Plot
As you write, it helps if you keep a notebook near to jot down ideas that come to you. It's also a good idea to keep the notebook with you at all times because you never know when your subconscious will yield something about your novel.

Because you began with a plot, you know generally where you are going. After the first plot point, I like to take my plot and layer it.

By this I mean that I take a look at some of the ideas that have come up while writing and see where they might fit in. I add on the layer of a subplot or the impact of a minor character or the repercussions of a new turn of events.

I stop about every fifty pages or so and take another look at the plot. Have I used the scenes I had originally planned? If not, can they be moved elsewhere? And I layer the plot a little more.


Pacing Exercise

1. Now that you have begun writing your novel, explain in a sentence or two:

(a) Your protagonist's conflict with the environment?
(b) What is his or her chief motivating force?
(c) What is his or her tangible objective?
(d) Does he or she achieve the objective?

2. Have any of these above-mentioned aspects changed or grown since you first wrote them down?

3. What is the primary subplot?

4. Where does it touch the main plot?


About the Author:

Joanne Reid has written everything from short stories to custom articles to technical manuals. Of all her writing, she likes novel writing best. Everyone has a story to tell. You might even have more than one story to tell. At http://writeyournovel.info find a great way to start telling those stories.




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