Seven Ways to Increase Your Novel’s Pace

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By Becky Wade

Here are seven ways to increase your novel’s pace:

1. Know what your story’s ABOUT and understand your genre.
2. Don’t begin at the beginning of your story. Say, for example, that you want to write a historical romance starring a heroine who’s rebuilding her life after adversity. It might seem logical to begin at the beginning, at the moment when her parents died. Or the moment when she decided to start stealing bread to feed her younger brother. Or the moment when she was arrested, or sentenced, or sent to prison. But remember. Your book is about the rebuilding. Your genre is historical romance. So consider beginning your novel in the middle-to-latter part of this woman’s journey. Maybe at the moment when she steps off a train in an unfamiliar town or the moment when she approaches the town’s ruggedly handsome (well, this is a romance, after all) shipping magnate to ask for a job.

3. Don’t begin at the beginning of a scene or end at the ending of a scene. Once our hero decides to give our heroine a job working in his kitchen as a baker, we could then show his maid taking our heroine on a long tour, explaining her duties, escorting her to her room, bringing her a food tray and giving her warm wishes before closing the door. Except is all of that interesting? Is all of that needed? Does all of it qualify as ‘good stuff’? No. Only show the reader the good stuff. Start a scene or chapter when something interesting is about to happen or is already in the process of happening. End a scene or chapter before or right at the moment when the interesting things stop happening. “My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” – Elmore Leonard

4. Have your characters MAKE things happen rather than letting things happen TO them. It’s tempting to insert contrived ’emergencies’ into your plot in order to increase pace. By emergencies I mean things like barn fires, tornados, blizzards, buggy crashes, sudden illness. You can most likely get away with one emergency of this type per novel. More than that, and you may need to rethink. Your plot will be much stronger and your book faster paced if your characters are the ones making things happen. Let’s say, in our historical romance, that our baker heroine has decided to mount a search for the missing brother she hasn’t seen since she entered prison.

5. Look for opportunities to insert the passage of time. A book that covers four months will read faster to a reader than a book that covers four days. Inserting the passage of time into your novel will not only increase the story’s pace, it will also add depth to the story and believability to the romance between our shipping magnate and our baker. Even though the reader wasn’t included in the time the hero and heroine spent together off-scene, the reader will understand that those exchanges have matured and added richness to their relationship.

6. Add a secondary storyline. Every time the reader is especially eager to see what will happen next in the primary storyline, cut to the secondary storyline. Just make sure the secondary storyline is also full of the good stuff.

7. Use dialogue! Use it often and use it well. Dialogue, if it’s not gummed up with too many thoughts and physical cues, will move your plot right along. Instead of having our baker heroine alone in her room thinking about taking a trip to follow a lead on her brother’s whereabouts, try dropping the reader into a scene in which she’s discussing the possibility of the trip with the hero. Maybe he’ll even offer one of his ships for transportation and himself for protection on her journey. (Well, this is a romance, after all.) 🙂

Which of these tips is hardest for you to integrate into your manuscripts? Do you have any additional tips to share on how to increase pace?

Becky WadeBecky Wade makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children. She’s a Carol Award and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award winning author of contemporary Christian romances, My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, and Meant to Be Mine. Visit her on her website.

Comments 0

  1. Excellent post, Becky! I always write excessive “directions” in my scenes during my first draft. By final revisions, I’m cutting many of the actions! The reader really doesn’t need a play-by-play of the heroine setting the table, moving to the door, etc…

  2. One thing I’ve learned to increase pace is to have them doing something while they are talking, instead of just standing around looking at each other. If our heroine is a baker, have her mixing up a cake while the hero is telling her he’s offered a ship and his protection! Baking scenes always get me. 🙂 Thanks for the great post, Becky.

  3. Great tips, Becky.

    I’m trying to cut out some of the physical cues, (as you called them) in my WIP.

    I don’t do the “he said, she replied” thing much, but I overdo the He winked, She propped a hand on her hip, or cleared her throat, etc.

    My problem is I’m anxious for my readers to see his/her reaction each time he/she speaks. So much so, it reads like the script for a play.

    How do I fill my reader in on the hero/heroine’s reactions without adding so many physical cues?

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