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Plotting and Pacing in Paranormal Romance Writing
 
 

Plotting and Pacing in Paranormal Romance Writing

The plot is all the events that happen in your novel. Think of it this way: If you went to a movie this weekend and someone asked you what happened, then all the events you describe from beginning to end would be the plot.

The plot is your way of showing your reader all the events that take place in your book as they unfold. There are a variety of ways to unfold these events: sequentially, flashbacks, dream sequences, and the list goes on. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with and go.

Now, plotting your novel is a must. There may be some established, best-selling authors out there who say they have never plotted a novel in their lives, but they are anomalies. Do not believe the hype! In order to make a successful novel, you must put in the work. This includes having a plan and executing it.

Plotting and plot maps are part of the planning series. As the saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Plotting, or creating a plot map, allows you to form a sort of outline for your novel and put a skeleton down for your book. You will flesh out this skeleton as you go along.

This does not have to be a detailed outline. You are not in a high school English class, and this is not going to be handed in. This is just a loose, rough outline that will help you get from point A to point B and then hopefully to an outcome that you desire.

A Basic Plot Map

Plot mapping is similar, and you can do both or just one of these. Plot mapping is usually for those who hate to outline and hate to write out any sort of plot line. A plot map allows you to draw out each scene, a few scenes at a time, to move you along.

The basic plot map contains the "exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement." This is a basic way to do it, and again, it is perfect for those who hate to outline. You simply write in the key elements of your story and then flesh them out as you go along. This is perfectly acceptable, but for those who want or need a bit more detail, the plot outline is a better idea.

To start your outline, you go back to your initial idea for your novel. Once you have that basic idea, it becomes simply a matter of fleshing out that idea in more and more detail, and that leads you to your plot.

There are seven steps to perfecting your plot:
gathering;

the hook;
characters;
conflict;
motivation and subplots;
climax;
denouement.
Gathering

Gathering your information is what we have been concentrating on thus far. What is your premise? Who are your characters going to be? How do you propose to tell your story? Gather all the necessary information before you begin plotting. Know your destination and then come up with the instructions to get there.

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The Hook

The hook is an essential piece of any novel. The hook is what engages your readers right off the bat and keeps them reading. Usually this hook will be summarized for the back of the book or inside the book jacket to entice readers to buy.
If you start off your book with too much description of your setting or too much history, your readers will get bogged down in all the extraneous detail and they may just decide to put down your book. Do not let that happen! Come up with a way to snag that reader's attention from the get-go.
Lure readers in and then keep them by providing them with action right away. This keeps readers guessing and wanting to know what comes next.
Characters
This brings us to the characters. We have already worked on your hero and heroine, but there are plenty of additional characters in every novel that are just as important as your main characters. These additional characters work to provide the reader with information they could not otherwise get. The secondary characters move the story along and serve many other purposes.
Coming up with these other characters is not quite as tough as creating your hero and heroine, but you still need to make them have depth. Come up with backstories for them just as you did your main characters. You want your readers to care about all of your characters, so spend some time making them as realistic and likeable or unlikeable as you want them to be in your paranormal romance.
The Essential Conflict
Every story must have a conflict in order for to be a story. Figure out what type or types of conflict you plan to have. Here are possibilities:

Man vs. Man;
Man vs. Nature;
Man vs. Himself;
Man vs. the Supernatural;
You can have more than one type of conflict running throughout the story, but just make sure that you know before you begin to plot what types will be used.
No matter what type you choose, it should be clear to your readers so that they can follow it throughout the novel. They need to know the difficulties facing your hero and heroine, and they need to be able to see it through as they read; i.e., make the progression logical.
Character Motivations
The motivation of your characters should be evident as well. Therefore, before you plot, make sure to decide what your hero and heroine want. Does she want love? Does he want power? Maybe he wants to be saved by a good woman, or maybe, since this is a paranormal romance, he needs to get out from under a curse and she needs to break a spell. Figure out your characters' motivations before you begin to write, or you may find yourself tangling the plot and subplots up along the way.
Subplots
The subplots are the other things going on in the book besides the main plot. Maybe your paranormal romance involves a human woman who has a daily life, including a job and family, and a supernatural hero whose life revolves around. say, getting out from under that curse mentioned earlier. The main plot will be all that happens with him and the curse, but when she comes into his life and they become enmeshed in each other's worlds, you suddenly have another plot: all the things that go on in her world. Does that make sense?
The subplots may not be as important as your main plot, but they are essential to the story nonetheless. They keep the story moving to the climax and the denouement; they keep the reader interested; and, if you plan to write a series, they could be what you set up to be the plot in your next book.
  • The Climax

    The climax, of course, is the high point of your novel, when everything comes to a head and boom! It all blows up. As you are plotting, you may not exactly know what you want to do with your climax, but do not worry. That is something that many writers encounter. The climax sort of appears to you as you write. Make sure your payoff is realistic, make sure it is not a downer to your readers. Do not build them up for hundreds of pages only to let them down with a climax that is anticlimactic. Make sure that the climax is the only possible outcome. Set it up so that there is only one way for your story to end.

    The Denouement

    The denouement, of course, is where it all ends up. Will you put a pretty bow on it and have it all tidily resolved? Will you have an unhappy outcome that has your readers in tears? Will there be a cliffhanger that can only be resolved in the next installment? This is the epilogue, where you can wrap up those subplots. Did she get the promotion? Is her mother accepting of her supernatural husband? End on a note that ties it all together.

    Plotting

    Whatever you decide, the plot map or plot outline is a great way to see if it all works. As you write it out you may come across things that just will not work and you may have to adapt and change. That is what plotting is for: Better to find these things out at the beginning rather than when you are 200 pages in.

    Plotting is such an essential tool; it can save you so much time in the end, so why not do it?



    Pacing

    The pacing of your novel is also very important. Give everything away too soon and you do not have a book; take it too slowly and you lose your readers. Therefore, you need to find a happy medium. Best-selling novels have a fast but varied pace, not a frantic one; remember that. These top novels move the way movies do. Movies do not have nonstop action, and neither should your novel.

    A story's pacing really depends on the characters. Well-developed characters keep the pace up, while flat characters slow it down, even bog it down. You want your readers to feel as though they know your characters, as if they were friends or acquaintances with them, so make sure to share details that keep them interested and keep the story moving along favorably.

    If the characters are secondary, share a few details. For main characters or the hero and heroine, make sure to share enough details that your readers feel they know them intimately.

    Vary the Length of Sentences and Paragraphs

    Another simple and easy way to pace your novel is to vary the length of your paragraphs and sentences. Having the same types of sentences over and over is just boring. Do not just write sentences that are subject-verb, subject-verb over and over again. Mix it up! Paragraph lengths should vary as well.

    Long paragraphs tend to slow the pace down a bit, which can be good once in a while, as you need that variety. Short paragraphs speed up the pace. When you want to build tension, write shorter, choppier sentences and come up with shorter paragraphs. This keeps your reader turning the pages, unwilling to put down the novel.

    When you want to pick up the pace in the novel, keep your paragraphs to no more than five sentences.

    Point of View

    One way to move the novel along is to keep your readers looking from one point of view to another, similar to the way Dean Koontz writes. He often delves into the protagonist's point of view, then the antagonist's point of view. Letting readers see into the mind of the bad guy is always a good way to keep them rooting for the good guy. When you know whom your readers are rooting for, you can correctly pace your novel.

    Remember that each and every page should give the readers a reason to keep reading. Every dull, listless, unimportant page you write is an opportunity for the reader to put the book down and never come back to it. If readers end every page wanting to know what will happen on the next, then you have done your work correctly and paced your novel correctly as well.

    Other ways to vary the pace include adding dialogue, then action scenes, then slower scenes that add background and depth to your characters.

    The Wrap-up

    Finally, do not wrap your story up too quickly. If you do, the readers are left feeling a bit empty or even cheated. You have written hundreds of pages to get here, so take your time with the resolution and make sure you address everything you should. Do not let your readers walk away wondering why you forgot to mention what happened to Fred, or Fred's cat, or whatever. Tie up all loose ends and do them justice, unless, of course, you are writing a series title and mean to leave a loose end or two.

    One tip you will not want to hear but is very helpful in pacing is to write your novel and then reread it to set the pace. While you should be thinking about pace as you write, we all forget as we get wrapped up in the actual story. When you go back and reread, you can see where the novel picks up or slows down, and you can decide if this is actually the way you want the pace to go, fixing any errors in the pace as you see them.

    This actually works better than writing and rewriting each chapter as you go. It is better to get on a roll and just go with it until you finish and then go back and fix any errors with a quick edit, or just wait until you finish the book and do a full edit.

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