There are many considerations when it comes to the pace of your novel. Here are a few things to consider.

Hours, days, months, or years

While it is possible to write one, I have never personally read a novel in which the events took place in a matter of minutes, although I have read a book, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, in which time stops entirely.

I have read novels in which the action took place over several hours or a couple of days. Franny and Zoey, the novella by J.D. Salinger, is comprised of two events that happen over the course of a few hours. Bright Lights, Big City takes place over the span of about three days. On the flip side, The World According To Garp is a novel that spans the entire life of the main character, T.S. Garp, moving from the events leading to his birth all the way through his life and his death, followed by descriptions of the remaining lives of just about every character in the story.

You will need to pick a time frame that works for your story, but a story that spans a lifetime has a much different pace than a story that spans a week, a day, a month, or a year. The narrower the time frame, the less you skip along the way to the end of the story.

Pick a pace

The way you treat time in your story should have a consistent approach. For example, if you write one scene in great detail, with each moment discussed at length, then you should use that approach for most of your scenes. That doesn’t mean you can’t use narration to span periods of time, but when the actual action of the story happens, the level of detail and pace should be similar. A suspenseful scene might have a different feel than a one with less tension, but it shouldn’t feel radically different.

It would be odd to have a scene written to that level of detail followed by scenes that happen much faster and are far less descriptive. There might be reasons why you would make that choice, but for the most part, you want the pace of your novel to stay fairly steady unless there is a specific result that you want to achieve by changing the pace.

Jump with care

Moving forward and backward in time is also a tool that should be used with great care. A flashback can add value and perspective to a story, but it can also jar the person out of the narrative or leave them confused about the sequence of events.

Narrative time jumps have become such a common trope that it has lost any originality or inventiveness you might think it has. It is understandable to hold back some information at the beginning of a story, but the reveal should feel like it is part of the story, not a jarring jump out of sequence.  Consider having your characters discuss past events instead of opting for an actual shift in time. The choice is ultimately yours but you should understand the downsides.

Keep track of the events in your story

Be careful when it comes to the sequencing and length of events. If your story is supposed to take place over the course of a week, for example, be sure that the events could logically happen in that time frame. Also, especially if you write your novel out of sequence, make sure that when the finished product comes together, everything happens when it is supposed to.

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