The importance of pacing

It’s amazing how something can seem so straightforward when you first write it, that there is no doubt in your mind that it’s fine the way it is. I’m talking of pacing – that once your draft is finished and the bigger picture is revealed, it becomes evident that the pacing is off in some places. I don’t think you’ll even be able to see this in the outline phase, or as you’re writing it. You need the whole to properly judge the smaller parts.

I’ve been working on chapter 5 of my second draft these last couple of days. It became clear as I was editing chapter 4 that it would need to be split into two chapters – the events that occurred in there were so important and formative that they needed more space to fully reach their potential, and simply adding words to that same chapter would make it too long – hence the split. I find it fascinating how a simple change of perspective can cause such big alterations. I do spend a lot of time reflecting on my manuscript, so naturally, I get excited when I find new ways to improve it.

When you think about it – pacing can make or break a novel. If I read something and I find the pacing to be off, chances are I’m going to put the book away and never pick it up again. If it’s is too fast, you end up not connecting to the characters and events; it feels as though you’re reading a summary rather than living through it and that can really kill the immersion. On the other end, if it’s too slow, you’ll get bored and wonder why it takes 27 pages to introduce a character.

Of course, there is no universal rule – it all depends on the genre. A mystery novel might linger on some important events for that added sense of suspense, while an adventure novel would rush through the action to get the reader immersed in the chaos of that moment. The same goes for romance – you want the reader to squeal once the longed-for kiss finally happens, and in order to reach that, you need a slow build-up.

All in all, the pacing is incredibly important. I don’t think I really knew just how much before I started editing my manuscript, to be honest. It was always just one out of a long checklist of things to remember. Now that I know better, I’m excited to see what I can do with it in the chapters to come.

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