So I was working on a fic, stopped about a year ago because of an issue I was having; I'm basically going through the events of the game and I don't know how to make it more interesting. I'm worried about pacing, making things go too fast or too slow, not having enough going on between fights/plot points to warrant enough time between them. I don't want to go too fast or too slow. Do you have any advice? (I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well)
You’re explaining yourself just fine, love! I understand this feeling >.< I’m always hyperaware of pacing, and it can really harm my first-draft productivity! But it’s always for the same reason for me, and knowing that reason helps me to solve the problem.
Why Your Story Feels Too Fast
There are a few different reasons a story may come off as too fast – like your characters are teleporting from scene to scene, from emotion to emotion, with no real continuity or meat in between the Big Moments. Some common problems include:
- There isn’t enough plot. When you start a draft with too vague an idea of what you’re writing, it can create a checklist effect: you look at your outline and use it as a map, but don’t have any idea what happens in between. That’s like going on a road trip with your car windows blacked out! You only know what’s happening when you get out of the car – not how you got there or where you’re going next. It’s disorienting for the reader, and pretty boring.
Solution: Look to your characters. They’re going to be the source of all plots, because they’re the ones calling the shots and changing the story. Develop their personalities – their pasts and their goals and their conflicts and their own individual plots. Then work out how all these characters fit together; ask yourself why these particular characters were hand-chosen to tell this story. Once you transform your characters into people with lives, they aren’t as easily stowed in the toybox between plot points.
- There’s too much plot. I know, I’m contradicting myself, but these are both possible reasons for this racing-through-the-plot feeling. Your story should be like a vacation – well-planned, so you don’t just sit on the couch all day, but still maintaining breathing room. If you stuff the story with too many subplots, conflicts, backstories, romances, and character arcs, there’s no room for anything natural to take place or change the plot.
Solution: Take stock of your plots/subplots and decide which ones you really want. Which plots fit your story’s theme, message, and pacing? Which plots are unique, enjoyable, and inspire empathy in readers? Which plots are you writing because you want them, not because you feel obligated to add them in (
*cough* needless love triangles *cough*)? Which plots feel natural and realistic for your characters? Whichever of your plots don’t fit these categories… detach from them. Throw them into the ocean. Change your name, dye your hair, and run to Mexico before they can catch you. Whatever it takes.
- Your scenes are too short or long. Again, two ends of the spectrum: if your scenes are too short, you may be lacking some dialogue, character-building moments, or lasting/realistic conflict. If your scenes are too long, you may be exhausting certain plot points, winding up with such long chapters that you can’t fit the non-climactic scenes. Both tendencies can stem from weak chapter arcs (hook, meat, resolution, and hook for the next chapter) or a lack of development/confidence in your storytelling voice.
Solution: Take some extra time to plan your chapters out – try to develop a more-or-less uniform chapter structure. If you find that no matter how structured your chapters are, they still come out too long or short, you may want to assess your author voice for lacking or having an excess of dialogue/description.
- Your fictional timeline isn’t working. I’ve been guilty of this time and time again – planning a story spanning three months, then wanting to add in characters getting married or graduating college or taking down a dictatorship, until three months just isn’t feasible anymore.
Solution: Decide which plot is the most important to you, and base the timeline around that. It may mean having to let some good subplots go, but in the end, a cohesive story is the more important victory. Otherwise, your readers will get lost, and every plot will suffer.
- You’re unconfident in either your main plot or your filler. If you feel uncomfortable with the plot itself, you may throw all your chapters into advancing it, because you want to prove and improve it. If you feel uncomfortable with writing filler scenes, you may drive the plot forward in order to avoid filler. Neither of these is a matter of personal style. As writers, we are both the playwrights and the actors – we have to create a solid plot, and then go up on stage and add the flair and make the jokes and draw people in. We don’t get the option of being one or the other. We have to be both the cast and the crew, the architect and the realtor, the main course and the side dishes and the whole Thanksgiving feast.
Solution: Get comfortable with it, as soon as possible; and that means you need to write. Go ahead and write the plot, and write the filler, and even if you think it all sucks, keep it in there. Write all the way through the first draft until the story is out and you’ve gotten some practice. Then go back, use that knowledge, and rewrite/edit those awkward scenes where you didn’t know what you were doing. Practice will make it better, I promise.
Of course, your problem may be something entirely different, so you can message me again with more information if you need! I’ll gladly take your question :)
But I hope this did help you and anyone else struggling with this! Thanks again, and happy writing <3