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For Writers,  How To,  Writing Tips

How To Pace a Novel for Beginners

There are many tips on how to pace a novel: plot points, percentages, guidelines, oh my! It can be confusing to know how to actually implement these tips while drafting your story. I mean we know where these events fall in relation to each other—the rising action leads to the climax which leads to the resolution—but how do we time these events and make sure we stay on course?

Well, I’ll discuss the general rules for pacing a novel, how to actual write using them, and how to not overwhelm yourself. Let’s go!

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General Rules for Pacing

Plot points are the most basic guide when plotting your story. I’m sure you’re familiar with perhaps the most famous of these: exposition > rising action > climax > falling action > resolution.

Readers hold certain expectations, and while it can be exciting to take twists and turns, there are some guidelines that are best to follow. For example, if you were reading a book and all the action and excitement happened within the first quarter, you’d be a little bored by the end, if you even made it there.

When you space these events out in a certain way, the story will flow well, have consistent action, and hold the reader’s attention.

So, how far apart should these plot points fall?

Basic Event Spacing

A common rule is to place each major plot point about a quarter of the way through your novel. This means that the exposition and introduction of conflict will occur in the first quarter, the rising action in the second, the climax at the midpoint, and the falling action and resolution in the final quarter.

You can play around with the spacing to create more surprise for the reader, but again, completely abandoning it can cause confusion and frustration for your reader.

The Key to Pacing your Story

There is one crucial step you can take to keep your story flowing well and on track, and that is outlining.

When you outline your story, determine each major plot point and fill in the gaps from there.

With your outline, you will be able to adjust the amount of events that happen in between each plot point and get a sense of the flow. And, if you notice the plot isn’t flowing well, you can quickly add or remove events before you begin writing.

Once your outline is done, though, I recommend forgetting about pacing.

Even though it’s important, many writers can get stuck, confused, overwhelmed, or all of the above trying to write and worrying about not having enough events or having too many. Your outline should keep you on track well enough without you worrying about everything while writing. Just get all your ideas out and don’t over complicate the first draft. That’s where so many writers get stuck.

After you complete the first draft, you can make any further edits necessary after reading the whole story.

Wrap Up

To summarize, pacing a story correctly can be confusing and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use your outline to determine how the story flows and then just let yourself write the first draft, however it comes out. Afterwards, you can get a better feel for the plot and make any changes at that point.

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