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3 Ways to Ramp Up Your Fiction Pacing and Tension

Strong pacing and tension are critical in a fictional story, but they’re some of the hardest elements to understand and master. That’s because there isn’t one “right” way to pace a story, nor is there one definable factor that creates tension.

One thing readers will attest to, though: if a story’s pacing drags for too long, they’ll stop reading. And if they don’t feel tension, they’ll likely start falling asleep.

What is pacing? It’s the pulse rate of your story. At times you’ll want a slow, thoughtful pace. Other times a racing one. And those elements that create tension impact the pacing of a story. No tension means a sluggish pace.

The Culprits

Backstory and heavy opening-scene information dumps cause a story to screech to a grinding halt. Overwriting as well bogs down the pacing and kills tension. Telling instead of showing detaches readers’ interest.

But there are many other offenders that contribute to poor tension and pacing. Once you are aware of them, you’ll be able to seek and destroy the culprits that are out to drag down your scenes. Continue Reading…

Outlining Your Novel for Success

Writers often need a lot of help and direction to write a novel. Even seasoned authors benefit by another set of eyes (preferably ones that are just as experienced) on their scenes. Having done dozens (perhaps hundreds) of scene outline critiques, I can attest that every novel outline, regardless of how carefully crafted, needs tweaking.

Even if you know what scenes might make up a strong story, it’s still not easy to tell if you have all the “right ones” and in the right places. I love having others take a look and throw suggestions at me, to help me make my story better.

That’s what my scene outline critique process is all about. If you’re in the embryonic stages of crafting your story or have already completed a full draft, I’d like to encourage you to get a scene outline critique.

One of the biggest problems I see as a copyeditor and writing coach is weak scenes. Scenes with no point to them. Scenes structured badly. Boring scenes, dragging scenes, repetitive scenes.

Scenes are the pieces we string together to create a whole overarching story, but all too often writers include many scenes that just don’ work and shouldn’t be in their novel. Continue Reading…

3 Powerful Cinematic Techniques for Novelists

Readers will often stop reading before they finish the first page of your story. While this has always been true, in this fast-paced age that foments impatience, it’s even more true.

If a writer doesn’t deliver what a reader hopes for on that first page, it’s going to be tough to convince the reader to stick around for the whole chapter—let alone the whole book.

There are a lot of things needed on a first page of a novel or short story. And while it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that all these elements have to show up on page 1, the more elements a writer includes, the better.

This, of course, is going to vary a lot. And if a writer is starting with a prologue or some scene that doesn’t introduce the protagonist, that makes a difference as well. But the overall objective, regardless of opening scene, isn’t going to change. And that is to engage the reader. Continue Reading…

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