Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#1
So I'm a new writer here. I'm not used to writing web serials like this. I've written some drafts of novels before but this is the first place I'm putting my work out there, and I'm getting some phrases in feedback that I am trying to incorporate to improve as I go. I'm just not sure exactly how to address them yet.

Readers want things to be quick, fast moving, action-packed and on the edge of your seat. Yet - we want the story to go on for as long as it can keep breathing, and maintain mystery and nuance. If you have a concept, how to do you make it last without it being slow? Are there tricks you use along the way, or is it just plain and simple 'plan everything out in advance'? I worry if I plan too much, it tends to be a wasted effort as characters develop differently to what I had imagined for them, and it feels forced to put them on the original tracks. 

I thought this would be an interesting topic that might help other people as well who want to make their writing exciting without jumping prematurely into the big-bad of the story and want their characters to grow a bit first. I'm sure it's a common problem! 

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#2
I don't think the problem is action, even action can feel slow sometimes. I think the issue is much more about tension. "Find the hope and despair in every scene" is a quote by someone who's name escapes me, but the quote I think helps really define it. It's not about going faster it's about making the slow scenes more impactful. You need to make sure that the audience is feeling tension, that hint that something can go wrong. You can cheat and do things like in medias res or just speed things along but that doesn't necessarily make it better. What I personally do is try to feel what my characters feel as an excersize. What are they worried about, what insecurities and doubts approach. And all that.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#3
Progress the story each chapter. You can do this through a variety of ways (dialogue, character's perspectives changing, travelling, introducing new information, relationships progressing etc.) not just through pure action packed fighting scenes or level up screens. Each chapter should be adding something new to the story, not stagnating and rarely re-hashing information the reader has already been told. It doesn't have to be some huge, mind bending, world-changing revelation each chapter, just simply the story progressing forward a step or two at a time.

Also avoid having chapters that have giant blocks of dialogue or descriptive text. There are ways to get information across without spending 5+ paragraphs describing scenery each chapter (especially for areas that are only visited once by characters). In real world conversations, people naturally try to shorten what they're saying and they need moments to breath between speaking sentences, so try to keep dialogue tight and save the longer conversations for when you really need them between characters.

People are generally more forgiving of slow chapters at the beginning of a fiction because those are usually setting the stage for the rest of the story and introducing characters. Just remember to bump up the pace and change things once the ball gets rolling.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#4
If your story has a designated beginning, middle, and end, then write it that way. Make steady progress toward the goal. Don't drag things out because you want to extend your Patreon earnings--you can always write a sequel after the initial story is complete. In this model, you have a series of books that build on each other, leading toward a conclusion.

On the other hand, if you want to deliberately write an ongoing web serial that could potentially last for many years, then write it in arcs. Each arc is about the same characters (generally), but the storylines are semi-independent. The series can conclude after an arc without leaving anything hanging, or it can continue with another arc. This gives you a graceful exit if you get tired of the story (or it's not as successful as you're hoping), without requiring you to come up with some massive finale that ties together all the earlier storylines. This model is more like a series of mystery novels all about the same detective, but each novel has a different mystery, independent of the others.

Where you might run into trouble is if you want to write a progression fantasy (like LitRPG) while doing the long, ongoing serial route. Personally, I think that's a bad idea. You can't keep increasing your characters' power indefinitely without hurting your story or making it nonsensical (your threats need to scale along with your protagonists, and eventually the threats and the characters no longer match the world you originally designed). If you want progression fantasy, I recommend sticking to the first model, with a specific beginning, middle, and end, so you can plan things out appropriately. It can be a very *long* beginning, middle, and end, but it's got to have an end point in mind or you'll have problems.

EDIT: I also agree with O_Weaver -- every scene should contribute to the story in some way, whether that's character development or plot advancement or whatever. Whatever model you use, avoid writing filler scenes.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#5

Hi_Im_Ren Wrote: "Find the hope and despair in every scene"


That's actually great advice. Thank you! I think this might be the most immediate thing I can work on going forward. I need to highlight how the character is feeling like you say, and draw attention to what can go wrong. You're right that I was looking at the problem the wrong way, so this was very helpful. :) 


O_Weaver Wrote: Progress the story each chapter.


That's very important. Thank you for the great writing advice here in how to focus on what's important and not to daly too long in dialogue/setting. I had some problems with POV switching early on as I was trying to introduce the flavours I had in store down the line. However, that made it harder to progress the story since I was only just starting multiple stories at the start without forward motion. I took advice to stop the pov switching so frequently so things can get moving in each character's story. Things should be levelling out in this way going forward though I hope. :) 


IvyVeritas Wrote: Where you might run into trouble is if you want to write a progression fantasy (like LitRPG) while doing the long, ongoing serial route. Personally, I think that's a bad idea. You can't keep increasing your characters' power indefinitely without hurting your story or making it nonsensical (your threats need to scale along with your protagonists, and eventually the threats and the characters no longer match the world you originally designed). If you want progression fantasy, I recommend sticking to the first model, with a specific beginning, middle, and end, so you can plan things out appropriately. It can be a very *long* beginning, middle, and end, but it's got to have an end point in mind or you'll have problems.


Very interesting. Your advice on how to structure arcs vs novel format is very useful, as is the advice for progression fics. I think most writers know a novel's plot structure but a web-novel's arcs are not really talked about as much. Mine will be a sort progression fic (although I don't want to really get to god tier or anything) and I do think it has a beginning, middle, and end, so that decision really will help to structure it going forward. Like you said, I don't want the characters to outgrow the world. I had worried about the scaling threats problem in the serial model and how to make it work without going at a snails pace in terms of progression, so just breaking it into individual books really simplifies that issue. Thanks!

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#6
Don't confuse action with fights.  I prefer to think of tension instead of action, because action implies fight.

Romance novels have a lot of action without violence (or so I assume - I don't read them). There can be a lot of inter-character action without violence (there need not be romance, though that will add tension)

Do I go for the increased mana, or increased strength stat is tension in itself so long as we see the struggle (that is the hero doesn't know which he will need next but must decide now) is action of a different form - but only if you write it that way.  You can even go farther - I have to choose mage or fighter, and can never get the other (but why can't you study both needs to be explained).  There are a lot of other choices that the hero can make that will affect the future, you can add tension that way.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#7



Readers want things to be quick, fast moving, action-packed and on the edge of your seat.



Imo... People say that they want fast-pace, but the truth is, what everyone really wants is just a good hook. They want something to make them say "why should I care? Why would I want to follow these people or this story? What do I get from reading this novel?" and things like that.

The hook is made by trying your best to let the reader know what they are getting themselves into.

I'd say don't worry too much about pacing but try to at least let

If you have confidence in your premise, try your best to let them get a good grasp of what the premise is.

If your hook are your characters or your actions scenes, make sure you let them know that.

A hook can be anything, and it usually is the thing that readers remember the most when they are done reading your story. If you manage to get the reader love, not just like but really love, at least one aspect of your story, you did a good job.


In case the feedback from the story truly does feel like its moving too slow even after establishing the hook, one can fix that by using the rule of three, as in, trying to get at least three things to happen in your chapter.

If a whole chapter is just "character went to place A" that's not that engaging, but if we have:

"Character A went to place A to meet character B"
"Character A and B have a conversation that leads to the reveal of a major plot point"
"Character A or B makes a decision that affects the course of the story"

Just doing that is already enough to make a more meaty chapter.

And if you end up with too much stuff by the end, you can just try to cut what's not needed.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#8

hank Wrote: I prefer to think of tension instead of action, because action implies fight.
Yeah, I agree. I think that was what I was confusing from feedback. I don't tend to write very many fight scenes for the sake of them, and worried that would be a problem. But if I just need to increase tension, that's something I can work on right away while working towards the more dramatic plot scenes :) 
hank Wrote: so long as we see the struggle

Yeah, I'll be practicing displaying the struggle more. I think it's very easy to assume that readers get what the problem is or what your characters are going through when they aren't mind readers! And they don't know the world as well as you would. It's important to remember that and like you say, bring the struggle to the fore. I'll try my best, thank you!

Breno Wrote: trying to get at least three things to happen in your chapter

That's a good rule! I usually have two or three bullet points per chapter that I try to cover, but three is a better goal than two, I'll try to keep things moving! Thanks for the advice! 

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#9
Web novel readers want fast paced. Besides our world being generally fast-paced compared to before, it also has something to do with the release. I see you release twice a week. And that's like 2k-2.5k words per chapter? So let's say readers get 5k chapters each week. That's not much fo the binge-oriented taste people now have (that's why Netflix release per season, and why weekly per episode release isn't good for viewership nowadays).

But obviously, we can also write so much in our free time (I'm 2.5k-3k words a per chapter twice a week), so what web novel authors do is make their stories fast paced, and that's what's happening now. Just realities of writing webnovels.

It doesn't mean you have to force yourself to be fast paced. You just need each chapter to be of substance and not filler.

I think the bigger problem with your story though is that it's multi pov. Progression, and keeping track of it is hard for readers given the scheduled release. I see that you stopped the switch pov per chapter thing, and that's the right call. It's better to have like 3 chapters in the same pov to be able to significantly progress something, than do a switch every chapter. Still, the problem remains that when you do switch from POV A to POV B, readers might have already forgotten about POV B from a few chapters back.

I believe the solution to this is to make the povs relate to each other asap. It might not be within your plans yet, so don't force it. But the povs that can connect, make them do so. For example, while you're spending the next three or four chapters in POV B, still make references to POV A, or have scenes or plot points that affect POV A and C, etc. Just so that readers won't forget the other POVs.

Your main challenge here is to make sure the readers won't prefer a certain POV to another (although we really can't control this sometimes). Otherwise, they'll just hate other POVs in favor of the one they like.

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#10

Temple Wrote: I believe the solution to this is to make the povs relate to each other asap.

First of all, thanks so much Temple for giving personal feedback relating to my story directly, it's very helpful. You're right, I was just thinking that myself the other day that it's something I need to figure out. Thankfully I do have this connection for 4/5 POV established from the start, but the 5th one does need to be brought in to the loop soon as is reasonable. It gives me something to work towards! :) 

Re: Tips to avoid the dreaded 'slow'

#12
Reader preference can affect the perspective of what is fast or slow. I do a lot of world building (particularly in chapter 2) but limited it signinficantly as the story progressed. By chapter 22, the actions/tension feels faster because I'm not explaining context of the whys from the world. This is just something I noticed for myself.

I have readers who are like 'don't erase a damn word' and I have readers who would love it if I'd just delete anything related to the world and just implied everything.  Personally, while I love the fact that the 2nd type of reader still finds enjoyment in my work - it's not them I'm writing for. I'm writing for re-readers, the ones who will very much enjoy the layered foreshadowing and picking up the details they missed on their first rapid read through. This is something you need to consider - who are you writing for? But still be prepared to make a decision if you need to pivot, otherwise you'll have to learn to accept the results.

Finally, my publisher tells me, keep chapters between 1000 - 1,500 words. End with cliffhanger (cringe), use heavy dialogue and include action (i don't think they mean a fight scene in every chapter, but rather up the tension). Use description and world building sparingly. .... I have a massive challenge on my hands.