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Pacing your plot

Do you find yourself 90% of the way through writing your novel, but with a lot of action left to cram in? Or have you galloped through your main ideas, only to find there's another 40,000 words left to write?

Pace is one of the trickiest things to get right, and one of the most important things to plan. At school, children are taught that a story should work like a mountain. The introduction to the characters and the story starts on a gentle slope, gradually leading up to the peak (climax of the story), which then falls away to the other side (conclusion).

This is a simplistic way of looking at it, but even as adults we can learn from it. If you sketch out your plot, you can see from your mountain shape where it may need work.

If your novel is all high-pitched action - you are looking at a steep, table-topped picture. If you have no conclusion after your climax - the mountain won't come down again. If your story is lacking in events, you'll see a gentle undulating slope. A novel with three or four main events will look like a mountain range, and can work well, if the introduction and conclusion are well balanced.

Experiment by moving around the story's main events, and see how the shape looks. You could start with a dramatic event, then drop down into introduction before leading gradually back up again.

Think about how you are leaving your reader. A dramatic ending can leave them feeling unsatisfied or startled, but too much conclusion can be boring.

The hardest writing to pace is the short story, as you have so little time to develop your plot. Decide what element you really want the reader to focus on and make sure you give that enough space.

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