What gets readers hooked? What keeps them reading?
Your story needs something that grabs the imagination from the first page, so the reader is drawn in enough to turn the page — and to keep turning.
Resist describing your setting in great detail on page one, tempting as it is. Readers want to get into the story, to know it’s worth investing their time. Once you’ve got them hooked, you can take more time on description, but even then, don’t tell them all at once about the house the heroine has inherited, or the strange world into which the hero has accidentally strayed.
Think of your story as a piece of music, with light and shade, passages that are fast and some that are slower. After a rapid-fire opening, the reader needs time to recover and reflect or the pace will exhaust them. Avoid long stretches of text and create scenes that involve dialogue—as long as that dialogue moves the story on.
Read your story aloud to assess the pace: short words and short sentences will create a sense of urgency. If you want a more languid pace, let your writing flow, with longer words and more complex sentences.
If you’re still not sure, read the opening pages of some current best-sellers and see how a good pace is created and sustained.
Still not sure whether your story is pacy enough? Get someone else to read it and ask them for some honest feedback.
© Njc 2023
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