Yesterday we discussed why pacing is important. Today I wanted to discuss how to pick up the pace. I write in YA, primarily Horror or Dark Paranormal--whichever you prefer to call it.
I wanted to drag my reader through the book. There are several tools I used to do this.
1 - Keep it short--my goal for INSOMNIA was 55-60K and it's currently at 61K. If you are trying to drag your reader through, keep it short enough that it doesn't exhaust them.
2 - Keep the tension high--I have a secret, I'm kind of evil. The things I do to my MC.... Let's just say, if he was real then I deserve a special kind of hell.
3 - Release tension appropriately--If you don't release a little tension sometimes (through comic relief or revelations, whatever), then it can exhaust your reader too. Just don't release too much or it can slow the pace as well.
4 - Spread things out--revelations, mysteries, action scenes, compounding pressure on protag, if you lump them all together then you end up with boring spots in between and your pace fizzles.
5 - Trim, trim, trim--cut unnecessary dialogue, use shorter sentences appropriately, use active verbs.
6 - Set the mood--if your mood is relaxed and chill and your pace is flying, everyone feels a little dizzy. Make sure the mood and pace fit together and they will strengthen each other. (setting and style can help with this)
7 - One sentence paragraphs--these can be really powerful, IF used appropriately. If you have too many of them or the sentence doesn't pack any punch, they lose their flavor.
8 - Short chapters with a good hook at the end--If you can hook your reader into wanting to read more, AND they know your chapters aren't overly long, then they are more likely to keep reading. There are good ways and bad ways to do this.
Wrong way - I walked through the living room to head upstairs, but a creak from the kitchen sent a chill through my soul. <--hook : next chapter--> My daughter stood on her tip toes trying to get a drink from the top shelf of the fridge.
Right way - I walked through the living room to head upstairs, but a creak from the kitchen sent a chill through my soul. The only weapon I could find was an umbrella. When I peeked around the corner, I saw him. A large man in a suit the color of shadow. The stranger leaned back in a chair and puffed on the biggest cigar I'd ever seen. When he turned his eyes on me, I choked back a gasp and he chuckled.
"So, you comin' in?" <--hook : does it really matter what the next chapter is? As long as "the stranger" doesn't turn out to be your Uncle Sal, then you're golden.
The point is. You don't want to leave your reader feeling cheated. Let the twists and turns in your story hook them. They'll love every minute of it.