A more dissected pacing post

July 6, 2009 at 3:35 PM | Posted in Editing, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice | 3 Comments

For some writers, pacing is a problem. Especially those writers who don’t outline their novels (like me). I’ve always thought that I was immune to any pacing problems, having been gifted with the ability to spot one a mile away.


I was wrong.

Thanks to my lovely and very helpful beta Kody (who knocks me off my high horse a lot, with her ability to write, and write often), I’ve noticed some pacing discrepancies in Remember–the action was too slow, and I sacrificed plot for character-building.

So half a week and two drafts later, I gave her the much better, revised version. I’ve compiled a cheat-sheet below that’s gotten me past that pacing problem, and which I think will be helpful.

PACING CHEAT-SHEET (*based on an average 60K word, or 240-page book)

page 1-15: Reader get introduced to MC, gets a feel for their daily life activities. (ie MC in action)

page 15-17: There is some foreshadowing on behalf of the writer so the reader will realize that a Life-Changing Experience is right around the corner for the MC. (ie parents lose jobs, decide to move to another place)

page 17-20: MC has some hesitancy on embarking on the Life-Changing Experience, but later embarks anyways (ie MC’s parents move, ignoring the protests of the MC)

page 21-40: MC gets the first taste of the Life-Changing Experience (ie going to and being unable to adapt to, a new school)

page 41-160: MC embarks fully on the Life-Changing Experience, and either she affects the outcomes, or the outcomes affect her (ie running with the popular crowd at her new school)

page 161-170: MC realizes that there are problems with her present situation (ie she’s turning into a mean girl)

page 171-220: MC tries to solve problems, succeeds (ie she stops being a mean girl, stands up to her former best friends, and starts tying up subplots along the way)

page 221-240: Conclusion! What has happened or changed because of the MC’s Crusade To Solve the Problem, or else known as the Happy Ending. It doesn’t have to be happy per se, but the reader has to find some closure in the book.  (ie the MC and the hot jock driving off into the sunset, leaving the popular ex-best friend–who may or may not be a blonde cheerleader–screaming in the dust)

And there you have it! A foolproof plan that you can revise according to your own manuscript’s length.

If there’s anything I left out, or if anything’s confusing, let me known in the comments!

– linda


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  1. I once wrote a little piece about this, but you do is so well! I am a bit hesitant about the first 15 pages (about) being intro to the MC (MC in action). Maybe I’m just more of a Start-off-with-a-bang type person.

    • I think it goes the same for books that start with a bang. For example, Markus Zusack’s I AM THE MESSENGER. It starts with a foiled bank robbery, but still holds true to the formula.

  2. I think that there’s a balance between the bang and the 15 pages of MC in action. After all, one could always start with a sudden change (shake up the snow globe a little) and have the MC in action in that setting. It doesn’t need to be the main conflict of the story, just a little spice.

    I start my current project with the MC running away from home and living on the streets. That’s not the real action of the story, but it is a big change for the character and she does spend some time, maybe 10 pages, living that before I get to Life Changing Experience part.

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