Yesterday, I finally reached 100 word doc pages. Yes, this might not sound like a lot, but for me, it really is. My first draft is now 65,000+ words with 12 completed chapters.
So why is this titled “Perfecting Imperfect Pacing,” you ask? I think there’s an art to pacing a story correctly. Everyone’s read that one book that just dragged until the very end, when suddenly everything was revealed and resolved far too quickly for the reader to actually process what happened. Then there are the stories that jump into everything too quickly and it feels like we, the readers, are dropped into the middle of a battlefield in use without a clue as to who is fighting or why.
Have I perfected this art form? Heavens, no! Have I gotten close? Not at all. When I warned my guinea pig (the person who is reading each chapter as I finish so I can gauge her reactions and understand any mis-translations between writer/reader) that the beginning dragged, it does so intentionally. I think that writing in first person p.o.v. is cheating a bit because the reader finds things out only as the character does. A character, just like any person, can go through weeks, months, even years without a single damn thing of interest happening. So I started my novel off in the middle of a dry-spell for interesting events. Everything moves slowly – so slowly that it’s frustrating for me to look back on – but it was necessary. To me, that’s perfect pacing. It’s unbearably slow, then there’s a definite turning point when the gears of interest begin to turn against each other, and now? Now, I am in the post-major-event writing scene where my two main characters finally confront each other after they’ve settled from all of the shit that they experienced together.
So, I’ll say it again: to me, this is the perfect pacing because this is just how my main character’s story went. It felt like I couldn’t rush things along to speed up the process of ending her dry-spell because it wasn’t my place to interfere. This is her story; I’m merely writing it for her. I’m sure that if it’s published, many readers will set the book down in the middle because it seems like nothing has happened, but everything that happens in the beginning is important in the end. Patience is not a virtue of mine as a reader, but it’s becoming one of mine as a writer.
For all the other writers who are worrying about whether their novels are going too fast or too slow, I know how you feel. I live in constant fear that readers won’t like it because of pacing issues. But don’t worry about it. If your imperfect pacing was intentional and not just an unhappy accident, then you should have nothing to worry about. There may be readers who don’t like it, but there will be others who understand your reasons without you even having to explain them. Just as there were books with imperfect pacing that I hated, there were also several that I loved. They built suspense. They made me wonder. They dragged me in because they gave me so little and left me begging for more.
There’s no such thing as perfect pacing. Everyone wants something different. I’m 3/4 into my novel and I barely wrote the meat of it. Am I worried about how readers will react? Of course. I think I’d be a bad writer if I wrote for entirely selfish reasons without considering others. However, ultimately, your manuscript is your own and you should stay true to your choices, whether or not they’ll be accepted with open arms by the majority.
[Note: Old screenshot from a while ago, so the page count is incorrect.]