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The Art of Self-Editing Part 2: Pacing

We’ll be posting here for the next few weeks with pitching and editing tips, and some author interviews about the publishing process. Today is Part 2 of Self-Editing: Pacing (you can read Part 1 here) which aims to give some tips on what pacing is and how to recognize when your pacing is too slow, or too fast. Written by Katy Dadacz, assistant at Guts, she shares her own personal experiences with editing and of reading submissions. If you’re an experienced writer or just starting out, hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

xx Julianne, editor at Guts

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Writing the first draft should be like an unleashing of creative fire, words endlessly pouring on to the pages. This initial process is fuelled from a lot of inspiration and life experience. But there's still a long way to go. For some, editing comes naturally, but for others, a lot of work and time is needed to figure out what needs to be cut out. I’ve already spoken about the importance of being objective. What comes with this objectivity is the ability to cut! All this together will improve the pace, which is what engages your reader.

Your story has to keep moving, not too quickly as the reader will get confused, but if it's too slow, the reader will get bored. When I write, I like to think of it as a piece of music, and as I perform, I can control the rhythm and speed. Once you have your first draft, separate it into smaller segments. Read through the first segment over a few weeks, taking breaks by setting it aside for a few days. Then when you return, read through it and cut out sentences that don’t add anything to the narrative, and cut out words and phrases that don’t connect with the rest of the story.

As I said in the previous post, you might not immediately know what to cut out. This comes with practice. When you are taking breaks from editing your own work, immerse yourself in reading what inspired you to write in the first place. Reading your favourite books and recommendations from others will help you pick out what works and what doesn’t. Especially when it comes to pacing. Spot the devices other writers use to move each scene along at the right moment, and with the right words. Watch out for moments of extremely long dialogue, or a long chapter, followed by another one or two. This doesn’t mean that extremely long chapters never work (James Joyce) and some readers love dialogue more than description. But I always think balanced is better, unless you are going experimental!

Once you get through the smaller segments of your piece, take a break, and then come back to read it from beginning to end, to see if the pacing feels right as a whole. Take your time, don't overthink, and go with your gut feeling!

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Katy Dadacz (she/they) is an assistant at Guts Publishing. She is currently doing an MA in Gender Studies, with a focus on contemporary feminist fiction.

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