How to revise & resubmit, Part 2: Pick up the pacing

So now that your main plot and subplots are balanced, let’s talk pacing.

Now I am sure you have all heard the story about the tortoise vs. the hare. It was a common parable on patience and work ethic.

But I am here to tell you it also relates to your novel’s pacing. Take a look at the video below.

While the rabbit starts strong, he starts to fall apart about halfway through. He lacks direction, he lacks motivation. So everyone stops rooting for him and he loses the race.

The tortoise on the other hand is steady, driving onward to complete the race. Everyone is cheering, everyone is excited, and everyone is riveted to see what happens next.

Your novel needs to be a tortoise.

Now I am not saying that your pacing needs to be slow… but it needs to be CONSISTENT and only moving forward. A lull here and there is fine, but don’t be like the rabbit and let all tension come to a complete stop. Don’t let your story run out of steam.

Consistent pacing is key to keeping your reader engaged.

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But as an author, you may be asking, “How on Earth do I do that?!”

When I first received my R&R requests and the pacing was marked as an issue, I asked the same question.

But turns out, the answer is more simple than you think.

For hundreds of years, stories have been written in three acts. And if its lasted that long, it must be right, right?

  • Act 1 primarily serves as set up for your story. The reader meets the protagonist and gets a glimpse of their ordinary world. They also come across the inciting incident and the hero’s decision to pursue the journey.
  • Act 2 is commonly referred to as “Test, Allies & Enemies” in the hero’s journey. It is a series of successes, setbacks and lessons that ultimately lead up to the climax.
  • Act 3 – or the denouement – provides the hero’s recovery from the climax and final steps toward victory – external and internal.hero-cycle

But as I’m sure you recognize, each of those acts is full of scenes, and that’s where pacing – particularly in Act 2’s long stretch – gets particularly tricky.

Here’s a few tricks on how to identify and correct your pacing problems:

  • Take a look at the spreadsheet you created to balance your plot lines and draw a line where you think your three acts begin and end.
  • Every single scene (or chapter) should include the hero’s pursuit of a short-term goal and some type of reveal or fresh news that brings the current scene to an end and
    presents a new goal. If your scenes, don’t have this… add it or cut!capture
  • Find a critique partner and listen to her! Kate was extremely helpful in pointing out boring chapters that killed the tension or spots where the action sped by too quickly. In one chapter where the intro was recounting a particularly boring day in court, Kate made this comment… And she was right!513jrhcgyol-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Buy, read and worship Eric Edson’s The Story Solution. I cannot stress enough how helpful this book was to me when plotting and revising State of Grace. Edson walks your through the twenty-three scenes that all novels must have and talks about the emotions, plot points and challenges these scenes typically include. Sound like a cheat sheet? IT IS! Take advantage of it!

 

Ultimately, pacing is something that is best to correct once you have your first draft out of the way, so don’t panic. If your pacing is a mess now, it is supposed to be! Revision is the time to go back through and trim, cut, rearrange so that your story’s action continues to rise throughout and wraps up in a pretty package of resolution.

Now while plot and pacing are important, let’s face it… The characters are what really excites an author. So coming up Thursday: how to get the most out of your characters so your readers fall in love.

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