This is from a writing friend named Ron Knight. His advice is great and I thought I would pass it along.
If the reader has a sense that your book is moving along with a fast pace, that will intensify the story. It will also be harder for your readers to put the book down. If they read your book in a few days, then you just picked up another fan.
Here are 10 ways to increase the speed of your manuscript. Keep in mind that the words will be pretty much the same in your story. The only thing that you are changing is how those words are presented.
If readers were asked, “What would you rather have, a book that is entertaining yet a slow read, or a book that is entertaining and a fast read?”
I think the answer is obvious.
10 Manuscript Speed Tips
1. Short Chapters
This is the easiest fix. Instead of your chapters being 10 pages long, make them 5. Or even better, make them 2.5-3 pages.
Short chapters also gives the readers more stopping points. Most of all, the reader will have a sense of accomplishment, as they whip through chapter after chapter. For children and tween books, this is especially important.
Example of an author who uses short chapters is James Patterson.
2. Short Paragraphs
I developed this style a long time ago and editors keep telling me to change it. I won’t, and here is why. Short paragraphs bring out the intensity of my suspense story. I can imagine the reader’s eyes, wide open, moving from one line to the next.
Short paragraphs speeds up the overall tempo of the chapter. And since your chapter is short, it feels like the action never stops.
Example of an author who uses short paragraphs is Sandra Brown.
Characters having a conversation will result in the reader to finish a page in under 10 seconds, just as long as it is not one character doing all the talking. A quick exchange through dialogue to illustrate a scene or plot twist, can be more powerful than description. The reader will follow the characters exchange with great interest.
Try writing some of the conversations without finishing with John said, or she said. Whenever possible, move from one person talking to the next. If the reader knows who is speaking, then there’s no reason to add, Jane said.
This will also help get rid of “LY” words. (Jane said, softly.)
Of course, don’t over do the dialogue. Just the right amount can speed certain parts of your book.
Example of an author who uses dialogue to increase speed is Stuart Woods.
The description of a scene can be slow and drawn out unless the author is only writing the important essentials. Do not over describe. If the pictures on the walls have nothing to do with the story, then do not talk about them. If the size of the room does not matter, do not bring it up. This goes for all characters and scenes.
Example of an author who writes like this is Stephen King. For an example of an author who uses description to increase speed in the manuscript similar to dialogue, check out Sue Grafton.
5. Page Break
Page breaks are common for scene endings, point of view changes, or to intensify the plot. Another great use for page breaks is speed. It works like this:
When the reader starts your book, they begin with ”A” and finish at “Z.” In the reader’s mind that can be a long way. When page breaks are added, then the reader goes from “A” to “B” to “C” to “D” and so on. In your audiences mind, more is being accomplished.
Example of an author who uses page breaks to increase speed is John Sandford.
6. Power Sentence
A well written power sentence will make the reader gasp. (In their mind of course. If the reader gasps out loud, then you really wrote a terrific line.) Power Sentences are used as the first and last line in your manuscript. They are also used just before a page break, at the end of a chapter, and at the beginning of the chapter.
The more power sentences you have, the more suspense, mystery, romance, or thrill’s you will have in your story. It will also keep the reader wanting more and anxious to turn the page, which of course, is how fast you want your audience reading the book.
Example of an author who uses power sentences is Ken Follett.
7. Section Break
This is when the author divides the book up into sections. The purpose is to end one main plot and begin another. And just like page breaks, it gives the reader a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that the book is “moving along.”
Three section breaks in a 375 page novel is common, which is every 125 pages. As for me, I like section breaks every 45 pages or 75 pages.
In your section break, you can do a variety of things. Some authors name each section or say something like, “Part II,” and “Part III.” Some authors will write a powerful bible verse, quote, or poem. It all depends on your genre and what type of mood you want the reader to be in before they begin the next section.
Examples of authors who uses section breaks are Dean Koontz, Shane Stevens, Michael Crichton, and of course, Stephen King.
8. Character Takeover
Nothing moves the story along faster than when the characters take over the writing and you are just the person typing the words. When characters become alive, then it is logical to think that life moves fast.
It would be impossible for me to explain ways to let your characters take over the story. (In one small paragraph.) I suppose the best way to know the difference is this: If you are trying to think of what to write next, then you are telling the story, not your characters.
Example of an author who lets the character tell the story is just about anyone who is published. David Baldacci and Joseph Finder are a couple authors you might want to check out.
9. Out Loud
This technique is used often. It is when the author has done all their drafts and the manuscript is ready. Now, it’s time to read it out loud. When you do this, you’ll discover places where you stutter. That sentence should be fixed.
If you stutter, so will the reader. That will slow a book down.
Example of an author reading out loud is Janet Evanovich.
Here is number 10, but actually, it is the most important.
10. Short-Burst Writing
Full-time authors treat their day like any other job. They write four to eight hours. Just remember, by the time your are writing for a living, you will have more techniques and the speed in which you write will be incredible.
My suggestion is to write in short-bursts. For example, write for an hour, then take a break and eat a snack. Write for an hour and then go for a walk or play Wii Fit. Write for an hour and have lunch. Write for an hour, then do a load of laundry. This gives your characters time to swirl in your head. Ideas will flow as your mind is briefly distracted.
Let’s say you work full-time and write at night. If you push yourself too long, the story will feel “pushed.” If you write in short-bursts, the story will have the sense of a rocket taking off every hour.
Example of an author writing in short-bursts, should be you.
Imagine that you have a great story, with terrific mechanics, and a flow that is speed…speed…speed.
That’s the kind of book that makes the bestsellers list.