3 Ways to Ensure Your Novel is Well Paced

Pacing is such an essential part of a novel. But what is it? Well, it’s essentially how fast or slow you tell the story. A well-paced novel doesn’t include irrelevant details that could bog the story down with information, such as non-eventful travelling, information dumps, or non-essential back story. The idea of a well-paced novel is to keep the reader engaged, interested, and well – turning that page!

So, how can you ensure your novel is well-paced? Here are three ways.

1) Shift the focus.

Have you been in a hurry to tell the story, and it’s moving too fast? It could be time to shift the focus from the main plot to your subplot. There are many different types of subplots, from romance, to giving backstory through flashbacks to supporting the novel’s central theme (think Bob Cratchit’s tale in A Christmas Carol).

Focus on a subplot means that it will take you longer to reach the final destination of your main plot, so use this idea sparingly. Too many subplots and diversions can be frustrating for a reader who really wants to know whodunit.

Want to speed up your story? Consider taking out a subplot.

2) Vary your sentence length. 

Just as including large narrative sections in dense paragraphs can slow down your pacing, the opposite is also true. Short, sharp sentences and the use of single paragraph sentences can pack a punch and speed up the pace of your novel. An exciting read has varying sentence length, and a novel with roughly the same length sentences can be repetitive, even if the content varies. Keep your reader on their toes by changing up those sentences!

3) Create urgency.

As I shared in my blog post – How to Create Tension in Your Writing – urgency can come from different places. For example, adding a literal time limit will keep your reader on the edge of their seat, checking their watch to see how much time the character has left to complete their mission. Creating urgency in writing can also mean adding an element of danger – is your character being chased? Is there a fight brewing?

Alright, those are three ways to ensure your novel is well-paced! Do you have any questions about pacing? I would love to help answer them. Get in touch here.

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How to Find and Fix Plot Holes

A big part of self-editing is finding plot holes and fixing them. I know that when you have written the work, it isn’t always easy to spot them, so let’s begin this blog post with what a plot hole might look like in your novel before moving on to how to fix them. 

I also teach a class on this in my Novel Writing Masterclass: It’s Time to Write Your Novel. This 40 class course will take you from idea to publication – self-editing included!

Let’s look at those plot holes issues right now. 

Plot Holes:

1: Continuity errors. For example, a character suddenly knows something that they shouldn’t until later in the plot, or there’s a scene that’s missing that explains how two characters met. Anything that makes you go ‘huh? Hang on a minute….’

2. Those sneaky narrative threads. When you’re reading the work, you should now see if all of your threads are tied up nicely. If you find one that isn’t – that’s a plot hole that needs fixing!

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: If your Scottish character suddenly spends a few lines talking like a cowboy without reason, that’s a plot hole. If someone does something that is entirely out of character without any explanation or backstory – guess what? Plot hole! Yes, your character will develop throughout the novel, but keep it realistic. If someone’s personality changes overnight without reason, that’s significant and can be considered a plot hole.

4: Error and impossible action: If you’re writing a renaissance and your main character flicks on the radio – this is an obvious plot hole. But remember, they can be more subtle. If you have a character who lives in the 15th Century in a mud hut and you say something in the text like ‘His interest turned up like a dial’ – this too is a plot hole. Your reader will be thrown out of the story as they wonder about the consistency of the writing. Impossible actions include things that would kill someone usually, but your character happens to survive – unless they have a valid reason for doing so (secret superheroes and that sort of thing). Remember – your character can’t just survive because they’re the main character – that’s not realistic.

Fixing the Plot Holes!

Now we know what the plot holes are, how do we fix them?

1: Continuity errors: If you find a continuity error that’s bigger than a dialogue issue, often writing in a scene to explain how you have reached a certain point can help. Don’t rush it – take your time. A shoe-horned chapter can throw the reader off, so really consider: how did this character get here? What could make this section of the journey more believable? What can you add to make this part of the story make sense?

2: Narrative threads: If you have found a thread that’s flapping in the wind, you can tie it up or remove it. Consider – is it essential? Is there a reason you didn’t tie it up or forgot about it (Perhaps it didn’t play into the plot or relate to it)?

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: This is a character action or personality issue – so ask yourself: Is there any explanation that could make this work? Why is my character behaving in this way, and does it make sense? What can I change to make it make sense? If you like the unusual action or dialogue, ask yourself, ‘Is there anything that can be added earlier on in the story to help this make sense?’

4: Error and impossible action: This is usually to do with a lack of research, and the answer is the same as the problem – it calls for research! The only fix to this is to re-write these parts.

If you need a professional editor to help you clean up your plot holes, get in touch. That’s precisely what a Developmental Edit is for. I would love to help you make that manuscript shine! 

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask.

Want to read something similar? Check out the following…
How to Deal with Constructive Criticism of Your Writing
4 Ways to Edit Your Own Writing

Coaching Publishing

How to Write a Synopsis

The synopsis. I can hear you groaning already…what is it about a synopsis that writers find so tricky to write? I believe I know. You are so close to your novel, and you’ve written thousands of words. You’ve edited it and finally reached the end. And then, you have to pull yourself way back from the story and summarise what you’ve written? That isn’t easy.

It’s actually way easier for someone else to do for you – and I know this because I have written clients’ synopsis and pitches for them and found it much easier than writing my own. It’s because I can view the story objectively, pull out what needs to be known, and re-write it clearly. When it comes to my story, I just want to tell you ALL of it!

Writing a synopsis is a class that I teach in my Novel Writing Masterclass – It’s Time to Write Your Novel, but I wanted to give you a little freebie here because I know that other people struggle with this area too.

So – let’s break it down together. Here are the steps I recommend to write a synopsis:

1) Write down plot points in the order of events.
2) Write the first paragraph – set up the premise and write a clear description of the world and scenario you have created.
3) Connect your plot points by describing your character’s growth.
4) Tell us the ending.
5) Re-read for editing.

Ideally, this should be no more than 1000 words.

Follow these steps, and you should find it much easier to write your synopsis!

Let me know how you get on and don’t forget to get in touch if you need a hand.

Are you looking for a similar read? Check out the following:
3 Things Needed for a Fantastic Book Proposal
5 Things to Avoid When Writing Dialogue 


How to Write an Amazing First Sentence

Your first sentence is the thing that pulls your reader into your story and makes them want to read on. Often it can be the sentence that makes a reader buy a book, as who out of us hasn’t stood in a book shop and perused the first page, just to see if it’s something that we connect with?

So, knowing how vital this first sentence is, how do we create an amazing one? Let’s break it down together.

Make the reader curious. 

Good first sentences compel the reader to keep reading, inspiring their curiosity and making them desperate to know what happens next. Here’s an example of some first sentences just like that:

‘He was wounded and unhorsed, but he was alive.’ – The Caspian Gates – Harry Sidebottom

Who was alive? What has happened? This sentence is excellent because it makes us want to read on and helps set a theme. We know that we are heading into a battle scene, that the world is potentially set in a different era or fantastical. It urges you to find out more.

‘The house was set back from the noisy main road in what seemed to be a rubbish tip.’ – The Good Terrorist – Doris Lessing

One of my favourite authors, doing a great job of pulling me into the story. The house is set in a rubbish tip? Tell me more, instantly! This sounds fascinating, and like the set-up for a dramatic tale.

Be clear. 

You’ll notice from both of the above sentences that they are short, clear, and easy to read. Your first sentence is not the time to wax lyrical about the colour of the autumn trees for fifty words; that can come later. You want to engage your reader and get them to understand you immediately. Even Tolkien, who used flowery language and long sentences, settled for a clear first line of Lord of the Rings, a complex novel:

‘When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.’ – Lord of the Rings – Tolkien 

This sentence, despite using the phrase ‘eleventy-first’, is easy to understand. This one also sets a theme. We know instantly that this is not the world that we are all too familiar with and that we are about to step into something brand new. How exciting!

You will notice that all of these sentences set the scene for the reader, which is convenient because that is the next tip!

Set the scene.

‘It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.’ – The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

We know exactly where we are in this, the era, the weather, and it even engages our senses to pull us in further. Plath makes us want to read on to find out more about the main character, too – what are they doing in New York?

Need a hand with your first sentence? Get in touch today. I would love to help you grab your reader by the shoulders and pull them straight into your novel!

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