Pacing From Chapter Length
Hopefully by this point, you are feeling pretty good about the foundation of your story because if you had any big plot holes, character inconsistencies, or scenes missing purpose, you've fixed them. The next step is going to be working on the intermediary issues between plot holes and common grammar or spelling mistakes. This will be where we crystallize your characters, setting, and scene. Exercises will include making sure the pacing of you story feels right, that dialog makes sense, and that you have eliminated exposition that doesn't drive your story forward just like you did with scenes that had no purpose.
Tension should ebb and flow in a story, so there may be high and low spots throughout your chapters. The low spots should only exist as short "breathers" after moments of high stress, either for the characters or the reader. Keep in mind the action should continue to rise over the course of all the scenes until the final battle. Therefore, longer breathers at the beginning of a story are perfectly fine, but as we ramp up through the rising action, the breathers should become shorter. The shorter breathers will build in that sense of urgency. So, a good test of tension is a review of pacing.
One of the easiest ways to check the pace of your story is to look at the length of your chapters. There is no right or wrong word count for a chapter size, but you should find that your chapters tend to a "usual size" near the front half of your story, then get a bit shorter as you near the climax. This reflects the early stages of world building, where you will spend more time introducing characters and setting, but then as you enter the stages of rising action, the pace of the story gets faster. (See Day 9 - Map Your Chapter Summary to a Story Arc for a discussion about the stages of a traditional story arc.)
Exercise: Review Chapter Pacing
For this exercise, return to your Chapter Summary page in the Structural Edit section of your Novel Editing notebook and follow these steps:
Excessively long chapters may be of too much exposition. Review those chapters again to check for spots where you have over-explained something or written too much backstory. Strategies or correcting these can include:
Excessively short chapters, especially early in a story, may indicate that something is missing. Review the chapters and ask your self the following questions. Revise chapters as needed.
Tips for working by hand
If you have been completing the assignments by hand, you can still use your Chapter Summary spreadsheet. You may not have room to add a new column, but you can still use a pencil or colored pen to write in the word counts. If you are someone who doesn't type your story into an application, you can do word counts based on an average. For instance, count all the words on a "typical" written page, then use that as your estimate for the average number of words on a page. For a page only half-filled, use half the count. Only count the words on pages that are less than half a page.
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Go to Day 13 - Improve Transitions and Hooks