You may think that you can’t affect the speed at which people read – fast readers will read fast, slow readers will read slowly. But in fact, our writing choices can have a huge impoact on the ‘pace’ of the writing, and how fast it feels to the reader.
If you want to write a gripping novel, you need to make sure you’ve got a steady foot on the accelerator, and know when and how to put the pedal to the metal and equally when and how to ease it off and cruise for a while.
This article explores fast pacing. For the sister article, which deals with slow pacing, click here.
What a snappy pace adds to your writing
Action is full of movement, and as the many fight scenes and car chases of Hollywood should tell you – fast often means exciting. In my view, you need to have a few other things tied in as well, such as emotional investment and goals, but if you want people to be gripped and whizzing through the pages, you should have a bit of fast paced action.
Building and release of tension
A highly charged scene will start slowly and build up in pace so the reader is swept along. If the pace remains slow, then the action will just fizzle out and won’t feel satisfactory and may even get tedious.
Emotionally charged conflict
Arguments should be fast paced to feel charged with energy and anger. When people are angry they react quickly and aggressively, they don’t ponder things through and consider the other people’s thoughts and the impact of their words. They may act or speak so fast they disregard the consequences, giving you the opportunity to land your characters in more delicious deep trouble.
How to increase the pace of a novel
The format of dialogue requires each new person speaking to begin on a new line, so unless your characters are droning on in monologues, conversations should keep the pace up. Also, dialogue tends to be more sparse than prose, as people don’t tend to describe their surroundings in great detail, they just say what they’re thinking.
Think short. Shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences. Fragments are simply the extreme of this – as fragments are just very short sentences – ones which only contain a single clause. Using shorter structures allow readers to speed through. Readers will typically hold each ‘sentence’ idea in their head before moving to the next one. This means that if you have one sentence with several clause, they have to pause to juggle the ideas around and make sure they have them straight. However, if each sentence is a single, simple idea, they can read it and move on right away.
Focus on actions
Increasing the pace doesn’t necessarily mean rushing through the things that happen. Quite the opposite. In an exciting action scene, you may wish to focus right in on each tiny little movement. The key here is to focus on the actions – don’t waste any words describing the scenery or anything that isn’t action.
Did you know that the author of these articles has written an entire Roadmap guide to writing a novel? It takes you through step by step, from premise to final draft, offering useful tips at just the point when you need them. This Roadmap is part of The Novel Factory, which is available to try completely free for 30 days. Why not give it a go?
This is a sister article to: Slowing down the pace in your novel.