Tuning the Narrative Pace (News about Chapter 7)

Editing chapter 7 was about time. In the first draft, the chapter was too much crammed with events. All this happened in one afternoon:

  • My heroine arrives in London after a nerve-racking experience in chapter 6.
  • She meets people from a social group she had never encountered before.
  • She has to act and make decisions about her life.
  • She has to find a way to wriggle herself out off a crime she got caught up in.

With all these events pressed into a few hours, anyone reading chapter 7 would have felt like being hit by a train (if trains had existed in the Regency).

I had to tune the narrative pace.

A Quick Introduction to the Narrative Pace

The narrative pace is the speed at which a story progresses, i.e. how quickly the plot moves from one moment to the next. Though the narrative pace of an action thriller is faster than that of Jane Austen’s “Emma”, it’s not true that a novel is only written in one narrative pace, fast or slow. In a good novel, you will find

  • scenes of fast action,
  • quick dialogues,
  • long conversations,
  • quiet reflection,
  • and even scenes where, at first glance, nothing important seems to happen, but that create a special atmosphere or explain certain circumstances.

It’s the mix of the narrative pace that grips the reader.

Dare to slow down

In our days of action-crammed blockbusters and a media-induced short attention span, it seems weird to advise to slow down the narrative pace, even only occasionally. However, from editing chapter 7 of my novel I can tell you: Dare it and allow your readers to catch their breath, enjoy your scenes and appreciate your writing.

By tuning down the narrative pace of my chapter 7, the time frame of the chapter grew considerably. The events mentioned above now don’t happen in one afternoon, they happen in two days.

What did I do?

  • I added short texts that establish scenes and context, rather than driving the plot
  • I added dialogue to create a funny exchange or to introduce a character
  • I switched the focus from my main plot to one of my sub-plots, allowing it to develop and take more space.

All in all, the new time frame allowed me to create atmosphere, to show my heroine’s feelings and also to pleasurably introducenew characters. Thus, chapter 7 went from “hectic and headache” to “atmosphere and style”. Slowing down was worth it.

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