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Balance can be achieved – or not – in many ways.

  • Balanced structure : start / middle / end – based on word count
  • Balance of time: action versus thought
  • Balance of dialogue with exposition

In this posting, I’m only concentrating on the first aspect – balance of structure.

Every story or chapter within a novel has a number of scenes and each scene can be identified as belonging to one of three main sections of that story or chapter: the beginning, the middle and the end.

A reader reads at a given pace: so many words per minute. A reader will pause, if you give them reason to do so, eg using commas, full stops and other punctuation marks. They may also pause if the content makes them stop and reflect on what they’ve just read. Otherwise, they plough on, until they reach THE END.

The reader’s journey therefore has a time span, determined mainly by the rate at which they read, but also affected by how many words you write, the punctuation you use and the message you convey.

Your aim is for that journey to be completed. You don’t want the reader to give up!

Aiming for balance in your word count, and careful placement of punctuation, and clever revelations at important points, is a tall order. Here, I am only considering word count.

There is no need for all scenes to be identical in length but, if they are different, this should be a conscious decision on your part as the writer. I don’t advocate ‘padding’  but, having identified imbalances, you might prune to make some parts shorter.

CHALLENGE: Check how many words you allocate to each scene in your story.

  • The starting scene serves to hook your reader. Is it too long-winded? How many words does the reader have to read before the action starts?
  • The ending of a story should leave the reader with some final feeling: happy, sad, reflective, satisfied. For a chapter, the end scene should encourage the reader to turn the page and start reading the next chapter of your novel. Is the ending too short? Too long? Does it provide the right impetus for the reader?
  • In the middle of your story or chapter, are any scenes too long? Are any too short?

TIP: your software counts the words for you!

Elevator pitch for Who Dunnit?

In another posting, I’ll be looking at other aspects of balance. Till then, enjoy your editing!

Acknowledgment: © Ciro Amedeo Orabona | – Balance