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Having trouble with chapter pacing


Ok! Here we go. You've watched lots of movies and read lots of books over the years, so deep down, you know the structure of story. It's quite possible that "story" is hammered into your DNA by now. Beginning—Middle—End. Study the hell out of story structure, it's good for you and your writer's soul. However, don't get locked into a structure prison, in particular with Hero's Journey, as it can begin to feel cliche.

Quick takes:
Everything is 3-Act. People dress it up in a lot of frilly clothes, but it's still 3-Act. After years of screenwriting and exploring other people's theories... yeah. But, 3-act is extremely flexible. Subplots are your friend here and everywhere unless you go crazy with too many.
Hero's Journey does not need all of the steps, nor must they all be in order to be a Hero's Journey.

Travel chapters, DO be concerned that the book begins to feel like a D&D game with random encounters to add zest. GRRM has a travel chapter that when I read it, I was thinking—"What the hell was the point of that?" the answer? Travel. And maybe the character hadn't made an appearance in a while, and we needed to know where she was. I think it was Arya. Personally, he could have dropped the chapter, but he felt he needed it. Travel is one of the major points in storytelling where Telling is vital. I have characters who spend 3 months on a ship... sheeeeit. You could spend half a book boring the crap out of the reader, teach them the day-to-days of ship life or maybe whaling, or you can slap down a couple paragraphs of description and get on with the story. This was hard for me to do at first, but it's critical unless your story has natural plot points to hit while traveling. Subplots could do the trick! But don't be afraid to summarize. 10-20k words of slogging through ditches and bogs will entertain scant few readers.

I'd be curious what you mean by outlining: if it's story beats and quick notes, cool. Inciting Event: Ogre steals princess. If it's a full-blown outline, you might ask if that's not your style. I tried outlining for years, and it kept me from finishing anything. I suck! I can't write an outline! Pantsing held struggles, too, but once in screenwriting, I first learned the underlying structure (which I knew but didn't put into words) and eventually learned to just feel for the story beats and write toward them without worrying about structure at all. In the end, it's all there.

I could babble on this stuff for hours, but dinner calls, heh heh.
My outlining is more of chapter summaries. I basically write out everything, but not in a formal sense. This happens, then this, and so n so does this the chapter ends like this, etc. etc.

I try to keep it to a few sentences, but some chapters have details that are in my mind right then and I don't want to leave them out so I add more detail in my outline.

I am going to try pantsing and see what comes out.

Thanks for your response!
I think the thing to realize is that story structures like 3-act and hero's journey are an average taken from a whole set of different stories. Just because the average 3-act story has 2 chapters of set-up doesn't mean that all of them do or that yours needs to have it. As the saying goes, it's more like guidelines. So if you find that your story starts with the inciting incident, then go with that. Don't write stuff just because the model says so.

Someone mentioned Brandon Sanderson's Youtube lectures. He's got one on story structure, and it's worth checking out. It's a nice introduction (the whole lecture series is by the way). So if you want to hear from someone who's got a lot of experience and a structured way of thinking about it, check him out.

As for how to do it, a lot of stories often start out with a mini-adventure, which sort of shows the reader what the whole story is going to be about.


Myth Weaver

I'm trying to write an outline based on the Hero's Journey and the 3 Act structure using this model as a guide:


Right now, my plan is 30 chapters around 4000 words each give or take. I'm not dead set on those numbers, they are just my basic goal for now.

I'm having trouble pacing the chapters. Right now I'm all the way up to the 25% mark/Crossing the Threshold/Plot Point One with only 3 chapters. 25% is 6-7 chapters. And 2 of those chapters are travel time. I'm concerned about filler and being boring. I have stuff happening. There are bad guys pursuing my 2 MCs and eventually they catch up and fight. I'm trying to create some suspense for the rest of the scenes, but like I said, it's mostly travel. If I hand wave it from location to location I feel like something is being left out. But if I fill it in with pointless dialogue and random encounters that don't move the plot forward it runs the risk of being boring.

If I fast forward ALL the travel in one chapter, it feels too rushed. My Act 2 would be HUGE. I'm struggling here.

Anyone have any pacing tips? I enjoy talking things out here with the community.

All of this is way more than I am ever going to do.

While I recognize there are many who live by outlines, its never going to be me.

I don't think its wrong to want to use the Hero's journey as a model, but, as others have said, its not the only template, and templates are not necessarily needed at all.

The most important thing to do to get a finished story is write it. Simple as that. Everyday, a little more closer to the end.

The best way to write past thoughts of not knowing if it ready to be on paper is give yourself permission to write it ugly.

I write it ugly everyday, and I get to the end.