Get Published – What Is Pace And How Does It Work

Before going more deeply into the device ‘pace’, let us take a moment to look again at the outline of your novel. The plot outline is not to be confused with Synopsis. Your plot outline is the blueprint of your novel – scene by scene. Since the novel will have many chapters, each containing several scenes, it goes without saying that your outline will be several pages long containing perhaps (hopefully) dozens of scenes. You are not trying to tell the story in this outline – it is merely a detailed guide, a route map through the journey of constructing the novel. You will be referring to this outline each day before writing to remind yourself what the next scene is about and what you want to achieve in revealing more of the plot, before starting to write i.e. putting the meat on the bones.
A synopsis, on the other hand, is best written when the novel is finally complete. It should be one page only, single spaced. Again no attempt should be made to tell the story. It is a ‘teaser’. It mentions the key character by name, the character’s desperate struggle to reach his goal, and the evil forces that are working against him. It poses startling questions that can only be answered when the reader reads the book.
A commissioning editor will need to see this synopsis, the first three chapters of your novel, and a very brief letter summarizing your past writing, some personal facts, like age, and what you are planning to write in the future. This synopsis and three chapters will tell an experienced editor all he needs to know about you and your talent as a writer. If he likes what he sees he will ask to see more.
One of the things the first three chapters of your novel will reveal is the pace of the writing. Pace is one of the magical devices that keep the reader hooked. Sustained pace throughout the book will help avoid that dreaded pancake effect in the middle. But what is pace and how can the writer make it work for him?
Remember the initial hook to catch the reader? Pace helps to keep that hook firmly in place. If the book is written at a good pace it can create a roller-coaster ride for the reader; he may want to get off but he can not because he must know what happens next.
When we try to analyse pace we are back to language and style again. A fast paced read is one where the language is simple, straightforward. No complicated syntax. Short, to the point sentences, and most important of all, frequent paragraphing. There is nothing more off-putting to the reader’s eye than solid a block of description or introspection that takes up half a page followed by a second block of words that takes up the second half. The reader’s eye baulks at this and he skips the page. Skipping pages is a bad sign. It means that the reader is no longer in thrall; he is losing interest and is skipping pages to try and find ‘the good bits’. It is the writer’s job to make sure the reader eagerly gobbles up page after page, fearful that he might miss something important. The writer has captured the reader when he hangs on every single word written.
The devices that also help to keep up a good pace are dialogue, dramatic action, strong characterization and meatiness of plot.
The next article will continue to look at pace and also go more deeply into each of these devices to discuss how the writer can use them to best advantage.

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