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The Importance of Pace In Your Story

The pace of a book is the speed at which the story progresses. Some books creep along, sleepy and slow; others are page-turners, flying fast and furious. The pace that’s right for your book depends upon many things, including

  • Audience,
  • Genre, and
  • Personal writing style.

Although there is no magic formula, finding a rhythm for your book that is just right doesn’t have to be complicated.

First, determine the mood you want to create. Are you looking to give readers a quick scare or a meticulous buildup? The frenzy of a Las Vegas wedding or the calm of a walk in the woods? The thrill of ascending Everest or the heaviness of burying a loved one?

Second, consider your audience. Are your readers crunched for time? If so, you’ll want your self-help book to speed along in short, manageable bursts. Are you targeting history professors who prefer to spend their evenings by a fireplace, poring over a tome? If so, go ahead and detail every last rivet on the armor of the Roman soldiers.

No matter your audience, however, it is important to remember that even quiet novels need a spark of speed now and then, and an author shouldn’t be afraid to accelerate some of the less-essential plot elements. A hurried lunch, for example, can be described exactly as such, skipping the details of what, where, and why.

On other hand, authors need to be sure that the important parts of the book—pivotal scenes, main characters, and climax, for example—are given enough time and attention to make an impact. If the author devotes the entirety of a plot to looking for a lost pet, for example, but then rushes through the scene in which the pet is finally found, readers will feel cheated.

How do you know if the pace of your book is just right? Dog Ear recommends beta readers (sometimes called test readers). Find a few friends or colleagues you know to be honest and candid. Invite them to read your manuscript. When they’re finished, ask comprehensive questions:

  • What was their overall impression?
  • Were they engaged from the beginning, or did it take awhile to get into the story?
  • Which characters were the most intriguing?
  • Where did the book move too slowly? Too quickly?
  • Was the dialogue believable?
  • Would they recommend the book to their friends?

Don’t be afraid of the criticism, and try not to take it personally. Rather, use it to make your book the best it possibly can be. Remember, it’s better to know now than later, when the book is published and the reviews start coming in!

Once you’ve revised the book to a point where it feels finished, set it aside for a time. When you read it over a few weeks later, you’ll have a clear mind and a fresh set of eyes with which to see any flaws.

The final step is to send it to us!