Novel Writing 12: My Plotting & Pacing Process.
I’m now over 25,000 words into the first draft of my latest novel. As things continue to come together, I’ve been thinking about the techniques I use to bring my plot together and keep it punchy.
Before I started writing my current trilogy, I sat down and worked through a series of world-building exercises, which helped me to create the topography and setting of the Empire. My Inspector Ambrose stories were a chance to explore the Empire’s capital, Traville, but now I had to spread my wings and look around the far corners of the world I was creating.
On top of the setting, I had to think about the characters I was writing about. What did they want? Why were they in the story? The way characters think directs the action, so this part took a significant chunk of time, making sure I had a solid understanding of who was in the story, as well as the world they lived in.
All that work has paid off as I’ve written, because I can refer back to my map, notes, and understanding of what does and doesn’t work in the Empire. So Step 1 is to do your pre-work. By making sure you know the world you’re writing about, you’ll avoid shattering the faith of readers when your protagonist gets into an entirely illogical situation.
After the pre-work, Step 2 is to write a rough synopsis. I go through and write the whole story in one big blab. It’s simply a long series of paragraphs detailing the rough way I see things playing out, and who’s going to be affected by each situation. I then jot down chapter titles to give myself an idea of roughly how long I’ll spend on each scene. Normally, I’ll have several crucial scenes in mind that I can see being the pinnacle of the story. There may even be a couple of these scenes; in the second book of this trilogy, I had one scene in mind, and it took me about 65,000 words to get to it.
Finally, the last step is actually part of the writing process proper. Step 3 is to check that pacing stays snappy. Now, J. K. Rowling does this really well in the Harry Potter series. She doesn’t let things die down; with a swift sentence, Rowling moves the action into the next scene. Now in my current story, I’ve managed to double the amount of chapters I thought I’d need to get to my current point in the storyline. I’m not too worried at the moment, because I think it’s important to let a story flow as it needs to; you can always go back and trim later.
So there you have it; the three steps I use to develop my plot and keep pacing in check. As my writing continues to roll on, I’ll let you know how it’s going.
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