The Great Cut: Chapter Pacing

This is my sixth post on novel revision. The goal: cut 50,000+ words from my 172,000 word fantasy novel to make it a marketable piece of fiction.

Pacing is important in any novel. It helps keep our readers engaged and ensures that it doesn’t take four paragraphs to get our characters across the room.

There are many ways to improve pacing in a novel.  Starting a chapter from the inside out verses the outside in is one example. Others include removing information dumps and excessive descriptions.

James Ellison once wrote, “You write your first draft with your heart, and you rewrite with your head.” The heart is not concerned so much with pacing as it is with telling the story. Pacing is the province of the head.

After correcting for the obvious flaws noted above, reading through a chapter a second time can often tell you whether more can be edited to improve pacing. Cutting unnecessary or redundant dialogue or simply revising it to be sharper can make a world of difference. It also lowers word count!

Just like you don’t want it to take four paragraphs for your characters to cross the room, you also don’t want your characters spending time somewhere they don’t need to be. If your chapter starts at point A and ends at point B ask yourself, “Could I have just started at point B?” If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you may have found a quick way to improve pacing and lower word count.


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