Getting a book to flow at the right pace to keep readers interested but not overwhelm them is a difficult task for self-publishing authors. Books that are too slow-paced can feel boring to read. On the other hand, books where the pacing is too fast can make a reader feel like they didn’t get to enjoy the setting and characters as they raced through the plot.
Additionally, every genre has expectations related to pacing. For instance, thrillers are almost always fast-paced. Romances are typically much slower-paced than thrillers, so the couple in the book has time to fall in love, so the reader becomes invested in the characters.
Here are four ways self-publishing authors can speed up or slow down the pacing of their books on a macro level. Next month we will cover how to control pacing on a scene-by-scene level.
1 – Keep Genre Norms in Mind
Readers expect specific lengths from certain genres, and a well-paced book usually falls within those genre norms. Books that are excessively long for their genre need to be sped up. Books that are too short need to have the pace slowed down. Self-publishing authors aware of their genre’s rules on length at the outset can plan and pace their books accordingly. For instance, in genre romance, the couple should meet early in the book. Usually, no later than the 10% mark. If a self-publishing author keeps showing the reader the world and characters without bringing the couple together, the reader will feel like the pacing for that genre is incorrect and will get bored. Similarly, in modern murder mysteries, the murder usually takes place by the 25% mark of the story.
Creating an outline before writing can help self-publishing authors control the overall pacing of their book by knowing what comes next in the story and approximately how many words they have left to write.
2 – Character POVs
Books with multiple points of view feel longer than books with a single point of view. Having numerous characters to jump between can slow the pacing of a book as the reader gets different information and sees other things from the added perspectives.
Too much of a good thing is terrible, and too many points of view can create a book where the reader feels bored because not enough is happening around the main story. Generally, authors should look to genre norms and see how many character perspectives are used in a given genre. For example, thrillers might focus on the antagonist and protagonist. Mysteries might have a single point of view, that of the detective. Romances typically switch between the lovers but sometimes can be told from only one perspective.
3 – Subplots
Many books require time as characters organize themselves and move forward with their goal-oriented plans. Adding a subplot can slow the pacing of a story down and give both characters and readers some breathing space. Allowing the readers and characters to focus on something other than the main plot interestingly creates more character depth while allowing the reader time to absorb and appreciate the book’s main story.
If a subplot gets out of control, it can slow the book’s pacing too much. Out-of-control subplots can take over stories and make readers feel like nothing happened in the book because there were too many breaks from the main action.
4 – Scene and Sequel
Scenes move a story forward, and sequels let the characters reflect on what has happened. Books with longer scenes and shorter sequels will feel faster than books with shorter ones. Scenes give the reader action to appreciate and look forward to, while sequels give the action meaning and allow the characters in a story to regroup and rethink their goals and actions.
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