How Perfect Does Your Story’s Structural Timing Have to Be?

Structural timing is one of most prominent features of story structure. This positioning of a story’s important turning points is one of the keys for creating a story that feels right to audiences. As often as not, when something seems off about a story, the problem can be narrowed down to wonky structural timing. This makes structural timing one of the most accessible tools writers can use to troubleshoot weak areas of a story.

However, structural timing is also an aspect of story structure that many writers find frustrating or confusing. How are you supposed to time a story when even you may not be sure how long the finished draft will be? Doesn’t following a precise map for a story’s timing mean your story is more likely to feel formulaic to readers? And, perhaps most commonly, just how precise does a story’s structural timing have to be?

I hear these questions often, particularly that last one. Here’s an email I received recently from reader Teresa Kline:

I have a question about the length of each act in a novel, that I’m hoping you can answer. I’m revising my book plot in prep for my second draft, and I find that my First Act is probably about half the length it should be, compared to how long everything else is (more like 12.5% of the total word count, rather than 25%). So my question is, does it ever work to have three acts that don’t stick super close to the 25%/50%/25% breakdown, or should that be my signal that my First Act isn’t doing everything it should be doing?

Today, I want to take a closer look at the mechanics of structural timing. What is it? Why is it important at all? And, finally, how can you hack your story’s structural timing to make the most of this super-useful storytelling metric?

What Ideal Structural Timing Looks Like

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To get us started, let’s take a quick refresher on what structural timing is. If you’ve hung around this site much, you probably know that whenever I discuss the beats of story structure, I almost always reference the beat’s timing within the story by indicating at what percentage of the whole that beat should ideally fall.

We come to these percentages by realizing that the arc of a story can almost always be naturally divided into eight equal pieces. Although there is much discussion within the writing community about the various merits and distinctions of stories that are composed of “three acts,” “five acts,” or even more, I find that these “eight sections” can almost always be identified regardless how the acts are analyzed.

This is how I break down these eight sections within a Three Act system:

First Act – 1%–25%

Hook – 1%

Inciting Event – 12%

Second Act – 25%–75%

First Plot Point – 25%

First Pinch Point – 37%

Midpoint – 50%

Second Pinch Point – 62%

Third Act – 75%-100%

Third Plot Point – 75%

Climax  – 88%

Resolution – 100%

These major structural moments within the story are spaced approximately 12% of the story apart from each other. This means that in a film of 120 minutes, each section (such as that between the Inciting Event and the First Plot Point) will be given approximately 15 minutes. In a novel of 150,000 words, each section will represent approximately 19,000 words. (When analyzing structural timing in a published book, you can break it down using page count instead.) The easiest way to arrive at these figures is simply to take the overall running time or word/page count and divide it by eight.

Why Does Structural Timing Matter at All?

At this point, many organic or math-averse writers may start freaking out a little. (If you’re like me, you probably became a writer in part because you got along with words way better than you did numbers.) All this talk about structural timing just seems so… clinical and precise. Why does timing even matter all that much to a story? As long as you have a beginning, a middle, and an end—and stuff happening in every scene—why do you need to worry about getting a turning point in there every eighth of the story?

Here is possibly the single most important thing to understand about story structure: it is all about pacing.

That’s it.

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Structure in itself, of course, also offers a guideline for creating the actual arc of the story, in which the “stuff happening” is meaningful and creates a psychological journey. But the timing? That’s all about pacing. And pacing, ultimately, is all about keeping your audience’s attention (I like to think of pacing as a writer’s version of superpowered mind control).

Pacing begins on the sentence level of your story, which indicates to readers whether any given moment in the story is tense, important, and fast—or relaxed, low-key, and leisurely. Pacing then becomes even more powerful and crucial when you move it up to the scene level and then to the structural level.

Nothing affects your story’s overall pacing more than its structural turning points. Those nine beats listed above, and the eight sections they create in their interstices, control the pacing of your entire story. They determine whether enough is happening in your story and whether or not it is happening at a rate that honors plot and character development while also preventing tedium.

How Much Wiggle Room Do You Have When Timing Your Story’s Plot Points?

Now let’s get down to the main question writers ask. When we say your Midpoint, for example, needs to take place at the 50% mark, how precise does that really have to be? Does the Midpoint have to begin at the 50% mark, end at the 50% mark, or should the 50% mark take place in the middle of the Midpoint? What if you’ve examined your story’s timing and realized you’re off by 2%? What about 5%, 10%, or even more?

The easy answer here: the timing doesn’t necessarily have to be precise.

The more complicated answer is that it depends on the overall length of your entire story. The reason for this is that in a very long work (such as a novel), timing and pacing don’t need to be as tight as they do in a shorter work (such as a film or short story). A good rule of thumb is that the longer the work, the more wiggle room you have. In very long novels (such as, say, epic fantasy), the pacing won’t necessarily suffer even with timing deviations of as much as 15%.

And that’s really all that matters. As long as the pacing works, so does the structural timing.

However, there are some big caveats here.

2 Caveats to Consider if Your Story Has Less-Than-Perfect Structural Timing

The first caveat is that the longer your story, the longer the sections between structural turning points will already be. In a 300,000-word fantasy, we’re talking huge stretches of story in between the main events. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing. If every scene is truly interesting and is moving the plot forward toward the next important structural moment, then these wordy expanses can hold readers’ attention just fine.

However, in analyzing super-long fiction, I’ve noticed this is often not the case. Quite often, there really isn’t that much happening to justify the extra length in these stories. When this test of the readers’ patience is then exacerbated by late (or weak) structural beats, the difference can mean tens of thousands more words before something interesting happens. This affects pacing which can in turn affect reader patience and interest.

The second caveat is that when you mess with the ideal structural timing of one structural beat, this affects the timing of all the other beats. Even if you get the timing back on track later, at least one structural section will inevitably be short-changed.

For example, let’s consider the First Plot Point. This beat should ideally take place at the 25% mark, bridging the Normal World of the First Act and the Adventure World of the Second Act. If this beat takes place noticeably late—let’s say at the 32% mark—this means one of the later sections will necessarily be 7% shorter. That’s more than half its allotted space within the story.

Now sometimes this won’t matter. Sometimes you can distribute that 7% across all the remaining structural sections, preventing any one section from feeling short-changed. It’s also possible you might be able to accomplish everything that needs to structurally happen between the First Plot Point and the subsequent First Pinch Point without making it feel rushed. Again, it’s all about pacing. If the pacing works, the structure works.

Bottom line: make sure enough important development is taking place in overlong sections to keep readers reading, while also making sure all the necessary structural development is present in any shortened sections that follow.

5 Tips for Massaging Your Story’s Structural Timing

Are you ready to start examining the structural timing in your story? Here are five tips to help you balance ideal structural timing and realistic development within the constraints of your story’s unique needs and challenges.

1. Figure Out Where Your Percentage Marks Fall

For starters, evaluate your story’s “ideal” structural timing by dividing its total length into eighths. If you’re working in Word, you can add in a Track Changes comment with a note where each beat should be; if you’re working in Scrivener, you can divide the story into folders. Then examine how closely your existing structural beats line up with this timing. (If you’re wanting to estimate structural timing before you finish the first draft, see this post.)

2. Examine the Pacing in Each Section

Maybe your timing is already pretty close to perfect. In that case, congratulations, you’re probably a natural-born pacer! If the percentages fall within a range of 5% in a long work, that’s probably close enough to not even worry about. After all, structural beats don’t happen in isolation; the story builds into them and out of them. It’s not even that important to identify exactly when a structural beat begins and ends.

However, if you find any of your structural beats significantly off the ideal mark, the first thing you’ll want to do is examine the entire structural section that precedes it.

  • How’s the pacing?
  • Does it feel rushed?
  • On closer examination, is it obvious a lot of words or even scenes are spent on moments where not much happens?

Now look at the section(s) that follow.

  • Do they seem too long or too short?
  • Too slow or too rushed?

If the timing problems compound the deeper you get into the story, you have consider at which particular point the bill comes due. If you end up with a Climax that’s only 5% of a very long book, that can feel anticlimactic to readers.

On other hand, maybe your timing isn’t perfect throughout, but there’s no obvious moment where this becomes a problem. In this case, your pacing is probably fine.

3. Lengthen Short Sections by Looking for Missing Pieces of Plot or Character Arc

If you find yourself identifying problematic sections that are too short, the main problems will probably have to do with “missing pieces” of causal development. Examine the purpose of that particular structural section. Does it have enough space to do its job?

For example, if the short section is the very first one in the book, this means there will be little build-up to the Inciting Event, which is meant to be the turning point halfway through the First Act (ideally, at the 12% mark). In this case, you can ask yourself if you’ve included enough set up. Have you introduced or foreshadowed all the important characters, settings, etc.? Have you established your protagonist’s Normal World and set up the thematically important Lie the Character Believes? Go back to the basics and make sure they’re all there.

4. Shorten Lengthy Sections by Cutting Unnecessary Scenes and Trimming Word Count

On the other hand, if you find yourself recognizing sections that are longer than the ideal, the culprit is often simply wordiness.

  • Are there scenes that could be cut, condensed, or combined with other scenes to progress the plot with a surer hand?
  • What about words?

Sometimes just doing a thorough search for unnecessary “filler” words can help you dramatically streamline your story and its pacing.

5. Bring In Your Beta Readers

After doing everything you can to bring wayward structural timing back into alignment, you may find that some sections are still significantly off from the ideal. That means it’s time to bring in the big guns: the beta readers.

Send your story to a couple readers and get their take on whether or not the pacing works. The only two questions you really need to know the answer to here are:

  • Were you ever bored (i.e., did the story feel slow to you anywhere)?
  • Were you ever confused or disoriented (i.e., did the story rush through crucial development somewhere)?

If readers are happy, it’s a solid bet the pacing is good, and if the pacing is good, it’s a good bet the structural timing is just fine. If you find readers aren’t happy, examining your story’s structural timing against the ideal is a great way to find and strengthen weak sections.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Do you find structural timing a useful tool when writing your stories? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. An epiphany occurred to me on night in a live concert that is relevant to the topic of pacing. (I have a musical background which others may not). The great symphony ebbed between exciting passages and relaxing ones. Between building up and occasionally tearing down. An example is Beethoven’s Nineth Symphony in which the fourth movement reprises the earlier themes and rejects them in favor of the Ode to Joy.

    Great novels do the same. Scenes follow each other with interesting but varying moods. I believe it has to do with the reader’s attention span and energy level. I always try to pace my developments and adventures keeping the impact in mind.

    Having said that, I have studied Kate’s discussions assiduously for many years and agree with them. However, I have ended up with the progression advanced by Jessica Brody titled “Save the Cat! Writes a Novel”.

    My workflow in starting a new story is to develop the narrative roughly at each of the fifteen steps of Save the Cat. This is the extent of my outlining. I then return to each step in some random order and write the story pretty much in a pantser fashion and don’t worry very much about the exact placement of each.

    My editing consists of many passes, (about twenty-five in my last novel), separately assessing the pacing, character arcs, grammar, dialogue, English, spelling, punctuation, development, and overall impressions. I listen to the book read aloud on Balabolka, read it in book form on Kindle, and edit it on the computer.

    Whew!. My readers have enjoyed my final stories so I am partially satisfied.

    Sorry for the long post.

    • No need to apologize for providing that excellent input!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I really like Dwight V. Swain’s structuring of scene/sequel (action/reaction) as a way to create this ebb and flow, this rise and fall of intensity within a story’s pacing.

  2. I do my writing in Google Documents but keep track of plot points and the number of words, etc. on a Google Spreadsheet. I have over 123,000 words after the 2nd draft (plus changes made during subsequent section read-throughs), but I think my next step is to tackle each plot and pinch point and write a summary of what should be happening at this and that particular point to check against the manuscript. I may start with the First Pinch Point since I’m not sure if I’m on the mark here. And I think I’ll shut up now since this is looking to be longer than Mr. Farris’s post and far less informative.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like this approach myself. Pinch Points don’t necessarily need to be as “big” as other turning points, but in a longer work, I do like to see them noticeably turning the plot–for the sake of the pacing.

  3. Peter Moore says

    What a thought provoking post. In editing, I’ve been concerned that maybe my story didn’t lend itself to the exact three act structure, without considering pacing as an issue. I’m going to analyze the manuscript from this perspective, starting with the first act, where the inciting incident comes at the 6% mark.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I think we can often have a tendency to superimpose ideas of structure onto a story and think, Oh, what’s important is that it has three acts (or whatever), when the real value is found in understanding *why* we might want three acts. Why has this even become a thing? What’s the foundation of the principle (and do I agree with it)?

  4. I haven’t watched in a long time, but as I recall, the original 12 Angry Men hits its beats on the dot like a metronome. It’s a stone clinic on pacing and a great movie to boot.

  5. I tend to not like the timing you advocate in this post. It follows the structure of film too strictly, and we are writing novels not films. I think James Scott Bell has a valid point when he says, in his book PLOT & STRUCTURE,…

    “In a novel, however, that first doorway [end of act one] needs to happen earlier [than the 25% mark], or the book will seem to drag. My rule of thumb is the one-fifth mark [20%], though it can happen sooner.”

    He continues…

    “In addition, the final act may take place more toward the end. So while the three-fourths mark is still a good signpost, you can slide it to the right a little if you so desire.”

    And I think the point of Steven James’s book STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE is that we need to pay more attention to the story’s needs than to silly rules meant for film. These rules, when followed “religiously,” trend to distance a writer from their story and its needs.

    • We have Larry Brooks and his STORY ENGINEERING and STORY PHYSICS to thank for this focus on structure. In his books, he seems to talk as if this is a discovery of his, when this particular structure — 1st Act = 25%, 2nd Act = 50%, 3rd Act = 25% — in film, comes from Syd Field’s SCREENPLAY, and his ideas may, in fact, have their root in pulp writer Lester Dent’s MASTER PLOT FORMULA.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        It’s certainly an approach that originated in film, although in analyzing many books, even old classics, I do find that it still holds out quite well. I was shocked when reading Homer’s The Iliad to realize how nearly exactly it can be seen to adhere to this timing pattern. However, as stated in the post, these percentages, dividing the book into eight sections, are only indicating a proposed “ideal.” What is right for each story, especially longer-form or experimental fiction, will vary, as per Bell and James.

        • Admittedly, I haven’t analyzed stories in terms of this structure — 25% / 50% / 25% — so I haven’t seen how closely they hew to those percentages. That includes Homer’s *Odyssey* and the *Iliad,* both of which I’ve read, too.

          One thing I did in terms of analysis comes from an exercise in Bell’s *Plot & Structure.* He recommended reading and plotting out things in different stories in the genre(s) I like to read — Weird Westerns, Gaslamp Fantasy (and other Historical Fantasy), and Steampunk — and I found that the first major development typically happened about 50 pages into the printed book. (I don’t mean the inciting incident, but the first plot point.) That fits very well with Bell’s idea, because in a 300-page novel, the first door (to use Bell’s terminology) would occur at page 60 (20%) or earlier. Fifty pages is at the 16–17% mark. Maybe I should analyze more stories and in more depth than I already have. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.

          But I know that the same percentages apply to TV shows, but a *major* concern there is how to handle commercial breaks, so that the viewer does not switch the channel. TV shows, however, have their roots in the structure of plays, so they draw a lot from that and Aristotle’s *Poetics.*

          Jack M. Bickham gives great answers on that idea for scene endings and chapter endings in his book *Scene & Structure.* They would be comparable to a TV show’s commercial breaks. One of Bickham’s ideas is merely to take the reader somewhere other than they want to go. You set up a problem for Character A in one scene and take it to a point where the reader absolutely wants to know what will happen next, then change the scene to Character B. Or you end a scene or a chapter with a cliffhanger, to drive the reader to the next scene/chapter. And then, of course, scenes can only have one of four endings with respect to that scene POV character’s scene goal: (1) no,… meaning the goal is not accomplished; (2) no, and furthermore,… meaning the goal is not only not accomplished, but there is also a further complication as a result; (3) yes, but… meaning the goal is accomplished but comes at an unexpected price; (4) yes… meaning the goal is accomplished and the story is over, because a “yes” without a price means all story tension has been relieved (a major point of Steven James’s book, that unresolved tension is the engine of story). But the villain can have a scene that ends with a “yes,” because of how it impacts and frustrates the MC’s story goal and how that affects the reader, knowing something that the MC does not know. (But a story can also have a minimum of four possible endings, which puts twists on Bickham’s #4 above for the MC, but I won’t go into those.)

          I do like things I’ve read in books on play writing, though. To me, they have always felt less nebulous in their instruction than many how-to books I’ve read on writing fiction. Lajos Egri’s *The Art of Dramatic Writing* is absolutely *fantastic!* By far my fave! What I especially like is how he puts meat on the bones of what it means to have a three-dimensional character — physiology/sociology/psychology, how they’re defined, and how they are interrelated. Pretty much every writing book I read prior to Egri was far too nebulous on that point. I have a technical background — cellular switch engineer — so too much nebulosity really rankles me. So, nebulosity is a no, but firm yet flexible is fantastic. LOL (Raymond Hull’s *How to Write a Play* is good, too, but not quite as good or as compelling as Egri’s, in my opinion. Hull was also the co-author of the old book *The Peter Principle.*)

          When it comes to story structure, I tend to prefer…

          1. Bell, because of his flexibility on the boundaries between Acts 1 & 2 and between Acts 2 & 3.

          2. Field’s *Screenplay* over Snyder’s *Save the Cat!* (or over Jessica Brody’s novel version of Snyder’s book), because Field doesn’t feel the need to dictate what happens every minute of the film/story. His idea years ago — when he first came up with the plot points, mid-point, and pinch points — was to prop up what many were complaining about at the time, a sagging middle. By contrast, Snyder’s ideas have sadly made almost all movies out of Hollywood boringly predictable, since everyone in Hollywood uses *Save the Cat!*

          3. Egri’s *The Art of Dramatic Writing* not only because of its definition of three-dimensional characters, but also because of how he defines theme and how it makes for a good story and how this can help the writer understand what is wrong with theirs.

          4. The idea of scene-sequel structure, as taught by Dwight V. Swain in *Techniques of the Selling Writer,* as taught by his student Jack M. Bickham, and successor at the University of Oklahoma, in *Scene & Structure,* and as taught by Bickham’s successor at UO, Deborah Chester in *Fantasy Fiction Formula.* (Jim Butcher, author of the *Dresden Files* series fully endorsed Chester’s book.)

          5. And finally, James’s *Story Trumps Structure* because of its emphasis on the writer understanding how a story works and its timing, but not in the sense of structure. Rather, more in the sense of “Okay, I’ve definitely gone too long without addressing what was happening with my MC” and similar things. His book, to me, seems more about gaining a familiarity with the art of storytelling and its nuances (even down to word choice) that makes it second nature.

          That’s a lotta books I’ve mentioned, but I own and have read them all and have benefited from them all. I also own and have read Brooks’s books (and benefited from them, too), but I was disappointed he didn’t give credit to others who came before him for ideas that were clearly not his.

          Dean Wesley Smith suggests that Dent’s ideas are responsible for that 4-part structure, because when Dent proposed his ideas for pulp fiction of 6,000 words in length, he broke it down into four 1,500-word parts. And Dent predates all the modern books on structure for film and novels. Under a pen-name, Dent wrote a lot of the old Doc Savage novels (I read many of them when I was younger).

          I’m a plantser, as I tend to plan, but I don’t plan *everything.* I used to be a pantser, but I found I always floundered and petered out before I got too far into the story, and then just dropped it. Now, however, I plan a little and it works better for me. I do it scene-by-scene, following the scene-sequel ideas in the Swain/Bickham/Chester tradition. The very first time I followed those ideas, as well as ideas found in Algis Budry’s *Writing to the Point,* I garnered my very first handwritten rejection from SF/Fantasy editor George Scithers, may he rest in peace (he was editor of *Weird Tales* at the time). And then I received even more handwritten rejections from him and other editors, too. That was when I pursued traditional publication. (Budrys’s book is obscenely priced at Amazon these days.)

          When I was in college, I took a screenwriting class as one of my electives (I majored in Digital Media and Web Technology), and I used it to help me flesh out some ideas for a gaslamp fantasy novel of mine that takes place during the US Civil War. We had to read Syd Field and Blake Snyder’s books for the class, and that’s when I found I much preferred Field’s book, because it was far less constricting. Snyder just made me cross-eyed because of all of its minute-by-minute dictates.

          I apologize for the length, but I love this stuff!

          • Do you use HTML here to italicize? Some platforms allow bracketing with asterisks for bold (or italics) or bracketing with underscores for italics.

          • Gail Finke says

            I enjoyed this long and thorough comment, thanks!

          • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Gail, and I hope you found something helpful in it.

  6. Sylvia Taylor says

    I can’t physically do a structure before I start to write. However on my fifteenth edit I found gaps and went back.
    The problem I have is that I have three antagonists – The first starts as a protagonist and changes to antagonist after a rape scene – he is then out of the picture because he is in a coma until the last third of the book. The two other antagonists appear early on but do not come into the fore until the half way point.
    I am on my twentieth edit (82,000 words) and the plot points are around eight I would say.
    The thing that stuck in my mind I was writing the whole was the character arcs, which were probably more in the forefront of my mind when writing. I think i need to go back and assess.
    Thank you for all your advice it has been invaluable for me as a novice.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      If the character arcs are solid, then chances are the structure and the pacing are as well.

  7. “As long as the pacing works, so does the structural timing.” A very freeing thought in a very helpful post. Thank you!

  8. BETH IRVINE says

    Thank you for clarifying the issue of precise timing (or not!) in plot structure/character arc. I am writing a story, which happens to be novel length, and have been working through the 2nd draft with attention to these structures. Lining events up with the plot points has improved the pacing of the story dramatically, but with 3 plot/character lines (protagonist 1, protagonist 2, and external plot) only one actually falls on the mark (while the others are nearby.) When I become more experienced at plotting, perhaps I will figure out how to get all three to converge in one scene.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, as I discussed in this other recent post on structuring stories with multiple plotlines, timing can get even more loosey-goosey when you’re dealing with more than one protagonist. Sometimes this means the pacing will suffer, but sometimes not, since there is a lot happening to keep readers’ attention in between plot points.

      • Victoria C Leo says

        Oh, Amen! Multiple plot lines ….. Loved this post and this comment as ‘blessing’ what I came to with my multi-book story arc, that if the pacing is good within the novel, then the exact point when a structural element happens, page wise, is less important

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yep. Ultimately, studies of structure and story theory are about distilling down the patterns and recognizing what works. No need to shoehorn it onto something that already works (indeed, we should be studying *that* thing to understand why it succeeds in deviating), but it’s always a good metric for troubleshooting down the line if we run into plot snarls or negative feedback.

  9. In my current project, I am working with pacing. I am also going to cut scenes if I need to when it is fully written. The project is middle-grade.

  10. Thank you for this post. i am just starting the edit of my first draft and this post is so timely. Structural timing – “It’s all about pacing.” Obvious and yet I hadn’t thought of it that way. Incredibly helpful Katie.

  11. Thank you for another interesting post. I did use structure extensively when I was initially building the novel. The initial version would up “front heavy”, or perhaps “ending light”. I’ll admit, I hadn’t checked in a while, but I did so today and found I am closer to the mark, so yay me.

  12. I found your explanation was very insightful and helpful, especially how, and what to examine if the points are skewed too much. Thank you.

  13. Thanks!

    This has occupied my mind for some time. Especially the discussion about how strict you need to be and what the consequences of overflowing might be.

    Some of it has already occured to me. For instance I had a third act that was about 15% of the whole story… because my protagonists had the victory served to them on a silver platter… That prompted me to add some extra problems for them… (JSB calls it mounting forces and boy did my antagonist’s forces mount! I added a dozen guys with guns… Take that protagonists! :o)

    Another problem I’ve spent some time on is “when do I look into structure?”

    To me it seems like some model where you start counting just scenes (25% of them in the first act etc.) or even chapters when plotting is the right way to go. I’ve learned the hard way to not put any word counts into documents while writing the first draft. That can both force out stuff the text doesn’t need as well as suddenly have me stop mid flow because “hey it’s overflowing here!”

    At least for me, writing a first draft that is structurally sound is unsound.

    It needs to happen in editing. I’m thinking along the line that word counts and such should happen a few rewrites in. (The editing plan so far: 1. Does it work at all? 2. Edit characters and cultures. 3. Edit structure and dramaturgy…)

    I’d love an article discussing different options on how to think about structure from the plotting all the way to editing, pros and cons of being strict vs being lax, etc.

  14. Okay, I think I understand. I picked up a horror novel a few days ago, “Mr. Hands.” Nasty stuff and fairly simple writing, but it sheds a tremendous light on the good and bad of humanity.

    More to the point, Chapter 3 hosts a sequence in which a psychic, Ronnie is deeply affected by the immense horror he sees in the life of the girl he is only then just about to dance with. Following the description of his reaction is the awful truth itself, written in black and white, that is to say, detached from the emotions of Ronnie.

    Basically, we’ve gone from the blunt force of Ronnie’s overwhelm to the razor sharp edge of crisp, detached reporting on par with the threats of a psychopath. To me this is a failure of small-scale pacing. Horror is meant to shock, but this is more than that. It’s a bit alienating.

  15. NGL, I literally almost cried reading this post because for the longest time I was so stressed that my midpoint wasn’t perfectly in the middle… what a relief it was to read this!

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