Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Measuring Your Novel's Pace with MS Word

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm gonna let you all in on a really cool tip having to do with MS Word. This tip will help you adjust the pacing throughout your novel in snippets. According to what I've seen, you can use up to twenty-two scenes to see how your story maps out. Are you dying to know how to do it? Well, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

I'm going to use a scene from I, Zombie where Trixie finds her dog.

Every scene has three parts: Beginning, Middle, and End.

You can graph the pace of a single scene by using a three-point scale that ranges from forty-five to one hundred and a nifty tool you have in MS Word. I'll get to that in a moment.

Go ahead and make your graph now. It might look something like this:

Choose your scene from beginning to end within your novel and copy it out to a new document so we don't have to worry about screwing anything up.

Now, mark the scene between the beginning and middle and the middle and end with a couple of asterisks or other symbol of your choice.

You'll need to get two numbers: The Flesch Readability score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.

Here's where MS Word has a feature you may not know about that will give you those two numbers. Do the following:
  • Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Word Options.
  • Click Proofing.
  • Make sure Check Grammar With Spelling is selected.
  • Under "When Correcting Grammar in Word," select the "Show Readability Statistics" check box.
  • Click Ok.

Each readability test bases its rating on the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence.
  • A Flesch score will be between 0-100.
  • A Flesch-Kincaid score will be a decimal. It tells you the grade level someone should be on to comprehend the document (a nice gauge for all you children's book writers, eh?).

Okay, now, go to MS Word and click on the Review tab. Highlight the text in the scene from the beginning to the first break and click the "Check Grammar and Spelling" button in the top left corner. Go through the prompts. It'll ask if you want to continue with the rest of the document. Click "no."

Be amazed at what pops up.

Write down the numbers next to "Flesch Reading Ease" (mine was 86.8) and "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level" (mine was 3.6). Subtract the second number from the first (mine comes to 83.2).

Add a dot to your graph. Like this:

Wash, rinse, and repeat for the other two sections. Connect the dots. You should have something like this:
As you can see, my scene has an end peak. This heightens tension when moving into the next scene. A peak at the beginning isn't good because you go in with tension and folks can get bored. Chances are, those scenes will drag. Try for a middle or end peak.

"So what?" you ask. "How will this help me?"

Well, the real measure comes when you do a bunch of these scenes and compile them together. You'll get an idea of the pacing throughout the story rather than just one scene. Because, after all, a story is a group of scenes all put together.

If you take the time to do a set of congruent scenes, make sure your novel has nice highs and lows (not below forty-five) and isn't a flat-line of death. It'll help show you where your work needs improvement.

I'm just giving you the tool. It's up to you how you use it. You may want to add some graph paper to your writer's toolbox!

What did you think of today's little lesson? Did you know about this measure?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Replies
    1. Now, that comment makes me happy :) Thanks, Stephanie! Glad I could be of assistance :)


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