How to Pace Your Light Novel: The Definitive Guide

There’s a lot to unpack regarding pacing, so let’s just dive right into it.

First off: the pacing of your Light Novel (LN) is not how fast story events happen, but your story’s general flow: how fast or slow it feels to a reader.

That means a million different things, but your primary goal is to achieve a nice balance between fast and slow pacing. How to do this is the hard part.

The word ‘pacing’ gets thrown around a lot in the world of fiction critics. Rarely do they complain about the pacing being too fast, but too slow.

An Author’s initial impulse might be to explain every little thing their characters think and do, their world’s systems and history and politics, and so on.

But wouldn’t readers need to know—want to know? If I don’t explain everything to them in detail, they won’t understand my story.

You’re not wrong, but you’re not quite right either.

Can telling them everything be interesting? Yes.

Should you dump it on your readers all at once? Definitely not.

When critics say a novel has slow pacing, they mean the Author takes a long time to progress the story.

If your characters need to defeat one of seven demon lords by the end of the volume and they’ve yet to leave the starting village by chapter four of ten, you will likely be accused of having slow pacing.

A fast pace, conversely, would be when the demon lord gets defeated in chapter three. What are you supposed to do for the rest of the volume? You could have them prepare to defeat the next one or outright go defeat her, but it wouldn’t have anywhere near the impact that defeating the first had.

‘Good’ pacing is avoiding both scenarios.

In ten chapters, they should encounter a series of problems that prevent them from defeating the demon lord, but still be progressing. Problem, solution, problem, solution, over and over until the final battle.

Without progress, the pacing comes to a dead stop.

But that’s not all!

To achieve truly ‘good’ pacing, you must apply it to every element of your LN, not just the story.

But how?

I’ll tell you in several points.

The Art of the Side-quest

Image by Nataly from Pixabay

The typical advice to achieve good pacing is to limit the number of subplots (I call them side-quests) you have in your LN.

These could be anything from a character arc progressing or going to an indoor water park for some comic relief/fanservice. If it doesn’t move the characters closer to resolving the primary conflict, it’s a side-quest.

If you have too many littered throughout your LN, it will be accused of having bad pacing. So, the standard advice is to only have a few.

I say forget that. Why can’t you have both?

A side-quest doesn’t have to be a random tangent, but one that fits into the LN as a whole.

Why can’t one of the demon lord’s minions be masquerading as a lifeguard at the water park? There. Now you have an excuse to hit the pool and progress the main story.

With each side-quest, you give yourself a chance to contribute to the three pillars of fiction.

  • Story – While having a good time, they keep an eye on the agent and corner her when she takes a break in the staff room.
  • Character – Include snippets of character development during the mission. Readers might learn what kind of swimsuit a character would pick, how she’d react to being seen in it, how she takes a compliment, and so on. The most absurd scenes can be ripe for character development.
  • World – Just by going to an indoor water park, without outright telling them, you’re showing your audience that the world your characters occupy is advanced and wealthy enough to afford such structures and that your characters can afford to visit. Conversely, if they went to a public pool, we’d conclude they were on the poorer side.

So, yes, you can have as many subplots as you want can handle.

But only if including them adds something to the overall story.

If it really is just a side-quest, chances are readers won’t want to read it. You never want readers asking: what was the point of that?

Ask yourself what impact each side-quest has on the LN as a whole. Does it develop the story, characters, or world?

In short, does it matter? If it doesn’t, take it out or rewrite it to matter lest you hurt your pacing.

Adjust Pacing by Playing with Your Light Novel’s Structure

The pacing of your LN can be adjusted by playing with the structural elements of your LN.

What are those? You ask, annoyed by my throwing around too many technical terms.

And I’ll tell you in two parts. The first will teach you how to use them to speed up the pacing, the second to slow it down.

Hard and Fast: How to Give Your Light Novel a Fast Pace

Image by Artur Pawlak from Pixabay

Scene Cuts

Your characters need to ride a boat to get to the island where the demon lord lives in his secret underground base.

You could have some character development by showing them on the boat ride over. However, if you’re pacing has been rather slow up to this point, it would be better to skip the ride entirely.

This is called a Scene Cut. One scene ends with them boarding the boat and the next scene begins with them arriving on the island.

Use these only if you’ve established everything readers need to know. If the scene ended with them saying they need to get to the island and the next scene they were there without the mode of transportation being mentioned, readers will be confused.

Skipping Steps

Your characters need to buy swimsuits at the mall.

You could describe in detail how they got to the mall, walked to the clothing store, browsed around, tried on several suits, and bought them.

Or you could just write: “We went to the mall, checked the conveniently placed map, and made a beeline for the swimsuit shop.”

This is called Skipping Steps. As an author, you can turn 10 words into 1,000 or 1,000 words into 10.

Skipping steps with help increase the pace, while including them will slow it down.

Using Summaries

This is similar to the above two.

Let’s say something your characters did was important to the story and readers need to know. But telling them what they did and how would take too long / not be very interesting.

If so, use a summary. Turn 1K words into a couple paragraphs explaining the when, where, why, who, and how.

Never cut content if it’s important, just deliver it to your readers in a cleaner form.

Just be careful not to over-summarize. By which, I mean two things:

One, don’t write twenty paragraphs of summary, just two. It might seem hard, but who said writing was easy? Cut extraneous details, dumb down explanations, and so on. There are plenty of ways to not say anything.

And two, don’t rob your audience of cool stuff. If I read a summary of your characters jumping out of plane, stealing parachutes from enemies in mid-air, and sniping the final boss during their descent, I’m going to be upset! How dare you just tell me about all that awesome stuff in a summary!

Save the summaries for boring, but necessary content, not the cool stuff.

Short Scenes / Chapters

Most LNs are comprised of 5 Chapters with however many scenes in each (usually 3-5).

So, if you have 50K words, each chapter would likely be 10K, making each scene 2-3K a piece. Depending on your story, each scene could be any number of words.

The word count doesn’t really matter so long as each scene is properly paced. If you’re wondering how long your LN should be, check out this article on the perfect light novel word count.

That said, if you want to create a sense of urgency during an action-heavy chapter, it’d be good to have 5+ scenes to create a sense of speed.

Long scenes can be quickly paced, but still feel slow due to the long time between breaks.

Cut your scenes (or chapters) short when you think readers might be getting bored.


If you’re writing a Thriller or are in an action-heavy portion of your story, you want readers to feel the danger your characters are facing.

Using cliffhangers at the end of a chapter or scene is the perfect way to create urgency, increase the pace, and basically force readers to keep reading.

Only someone with great self-control could resist the desire to find out what happens next.

You can observe this in any TV cop show. Just before each commercial break, a character is about to be killed or a new person arrives claiming they have information crucial to solving the case. This gets audiences to tune back in at all costs.

Action Scenes

In case you haven’t figured it out already—action = fast pacing.

The fastest way to achieve fast pacing is including a scene with lots of movement. If characters standing around talking is considered slow, then a fight, car chase, race, or any other scene that would be described as ‘having lots of action’ is considered fast.

I like to save any long battles for the climax, but it’s good to sprinkle short battles throughout your LN.

This is typical in Role-Playing Games. As they’re typically divided into story, exploration, and combat, the designers try to achieve a balance between each.

Thus, random battles. Every few minutes, the party is attacked by a random group of enemies in which the fight doesn’t last more than a minute if not just a few seconds.

And if they take too long, most dismiss it as a bad game. Whereas boss battles need to be long to justify just how much of threat they’re supposed to be.

Anyway, use action scenes smartly to quicken your pace in small doses.

Taking It Slow: How to Give Your Light Novel a Slow Pace

Image by Ralph from Pixabay

Don’t Tell Them Everything

The best part of a Mystery is when all the information comes together right at the end and the detective is able to solve the case.

The Author achieved this by not telling the audience everything. Just think if the protagonist gave a definitive answer to all the mysteries they encountered.

  • The murder weapon was an axe.
  • The murder took place in this room.
  • They did it to secure an inheritance.

It wouldn’t take long for readers to determine the culprit and all the tension would die.

Instead, the detective never tells the audience everything. Sherlock Holmes always knows, but doesn’t let any party involved know that he knows. He tells them just enough to make them want to keep reading.

Even if you’re not writing a Mystery, it’s good for your LN’s pacing to not reveal everything all at once. If you did, it would be considered too fast.

Give readers a million reasons to keep reading.

  • What’s the true nature of the main character?
  • Does that character really have amnesia?
  • Is the antagonist working for good or evil?

The less you say early on, the better, but be prepared to tie everything up by the end. If you don’t, readers will be angrier than if you told them too early.

Drag It Out

This is similar to the above.

Rather than introduce and resolve a conflict all within the same scene or chapter, it can be beneficial to drag it out across chapters.

You can do this with any number of conflicts to your benefit. The more problems your characters have piled on them, the better for your LN. The varieties of which you can learn in this article about crafting conflict.

By slowly progressing through each one and resolving them all by the end, you create and perpetuate a sense of ever-increasing tension in your readers.

If they encountered only one problem and solved it in each chapter, you would have the same low level of tension through the whole LN.

This isn’t necessarily bad as long as you have progress, but you could make your LN so much more engaging by dragging them out.

That way it won’t feel like they’re being solved too quickly (a ‘too fast’ pace).

Backstory (Flashbacks)

Unfortunately, despite how important a character’s backstory is to their development, telling it brings the story to complete stop.

While readers experience a character’s backstory, the knowledge that reading it won’t move the story forward will always be gnawing at their brain.

Readers crave progress above all else, so this is a huge problem.

However, you shouldn’t worry about it too much. You can resolve the issue in two ways:

  1. Tell it in chunks. Space their backstory throughout each chapter. If there’s no story benefit to dumping it all at once, don’t.
  2. Do so after a fast-paced scene. If you must tell a long backstory, do so when readers are exhausted after a fight or a bunch of short scenes. They’ll appreciate a break.

Control Your Light Novel’s Pacing Using the Words Themselves

One aspect of pacing that might not initially occur to you are the words you actually use to tell your story.

You might’ve noticed I avoid words with more than ten letters or paragraphs with more than two or three sentences.

By doing that, I hope to create a very fast pace that makes it easy to tear through each point in the article. I could fill it with long words and thick paragraphs, but then neither of us would want to read it.

I’m making a mistake by using a ton of long sentences, but I like them and that’s just how I write. Deal with it.

Anyway, you can use writing techniques and specific word choices to alter your LN’s pace. Here are several methods:

Writing Techniques

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Little Blocks VS. Huge Chunks

The first is as I mentioned above: using shorter paragraphs.

I’m sure you’ve come across a paragraph in a novel that takes up the entire page. Were you happy to see it? Probably not. I never am. They look imposing and absorbing all that information will probably be hard.

It may be necessary to understand your story, but take time to break up long paragraphs to create a better sense of flow.

If you need slowness, make them long; if not, break them up.

I could write every section of this article in a single paragraph and it would be grammatically correct and make perfect sense. But I don’t because that would be a pain to read and make this long article seem even longer…

Short VS. Long Sentences

Don’t be like me. I never know when to shut up in real life so my sentences average about twenty words each.

They’re great when you want to slow the pace down and not make it seem like the characters are in a hurry, but they’re often out of place during fast-paced scenes.

It just doesn’t make sense for a character to be thinking in 40 word sentences when their life is on the line. For example, this is ideal:

“The goblin leaps high. I raise my sword. His club smashes into my blade.”

You want a bam, bam, bam rhythm to your text for fast-paced scenes, not whatever this is:

“As the goblin leaped high into the air, I wondered just what effect his club smashing down onto my skull would produce. Would my brains splatter across the forest floor as ruby-red blood blinded my eyes and my soul began to slip from cascading body?”

Your readers would never believe he would have time to raise his sword after thinking all that.

So, Fast Pace = Short Sentences. Slow Pace = Long Sentences. It’s as simple as that.

Dialogue VS. Prose

Your prose (narration/description) can be packed with pretty words, detailed descriptions, and thoughtful metaphors, but not your dialogue. No one actually speaks in such a manner…unless they’re really annoying.

The easiest way to quicken your novel’s pace is to have a bit of dialogue. Thankfully, you’re writing a LN so 50% of your text will likely be dialogue anyway. That number is based on what’s expected from the LN writing style, which you can master by checking out this article.

By having a back and forth between characters, a reader will perceive the story as moving pretty fast as it creates a one, two, one, two rhythm.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to slow things down, use more prose. Narrate what’s happening in the environment, give details about a location, have a character reflect on what’s been happening.

There are plenty of things to write about outside of dialogue, just avoid giant chunks of it.

And, believe it or not, a giant wall of dialogue can actually be considered slow-paced. Why?

Because if all you see is dialogue, readers will imagine two people standing in place talking to each other. That’s about as slow as they can go without outright sitting down.

To avoid this, keep your characters active throughout their dialogue. Like so:

  • “What do you think about this novel’s pacing?” Yosuke grabs a book and points at the cover.
  • “It could be better.” Miko snorts a laugh.

Just simple things like that can create a sense of movement where a reader might not easily imagine any. But don’t employ them too often or your characters will come off as ADHD patients who can’t remain still for more than a second.

If you’ve already established they’re walking down a street or running away or whatever, then you can probably leave those out. Readers should be able to remember what they’re doing, but it’s still good to remind them ever so often.

The Words

Image by Skyler H. from Pixabay

Aggressive VS. Gentle Verbs

An action scene won’t feel fast-paced if your characters ‘flutter’ across the parking lot or a dagger ‘floats’ past the protagonist’s nose.

It will if the characters ‘dash’ and the dagger ‘rockets’.

Your choice of verbs can quicken or slow the pace just as much as what’s actually happening.

’Smart’ vs ‘Dumb’ Language

I like big words. I don’t use them in these articles because that would be annoying.

However, I do use them in my LNs, but only when I want a slower pace.

Your protagonist “reflecting on the implications of religion-influenced corporate practices on the zeitgeist of civilization as a whole” will feel much slower than him thinking “these nuts treating their companies like gods can’t be good”.

If you want to take it slow—feel free to use big words. Just not too many, lest you come off as pretentious. A danger you can learn to avoid by reading this article on pretentious writing.

And if fast—dumb it down (this is usually better in general for the LN genre).

Trimming the Word-Lawn

Your editing phase will take care of this problem, but you might miss a few things.

A story can feel slow if your text is filled with useless words, phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and so on. An example:

SlowShe was able to land safely on the ground by using a parachute she found at the very last second before the plane exploded.

FastShe landed using a parachute found before the plane exploded.

  • We know she ‘was able to’ because of ‘landed’.
  • ‘landed’ implies ‘safely’. If not, you’d use a verb like ‘crashed’.
  • ‘landed’ also implies ‘on the ground’, no need to point it out unless she landed on a rooftop specifically.
  • ‘before’ implies ‘at the very last second’.

In general, you shouldn’t have such bloated sentences anywhere in your text regardless of how fast or slow you want the pacing. Quicken or slow it in other ways.

A sentence filled with pointless fluff is always unpleasant.

But We Just Met

Warning: Tangent. But I must warn you of the dangers of ruining your characters by completing their character arcs too quickly.

I say this because I once watched an anime that featured the protagonist meeting a girl, learning what her trauma was, and solving it all within the first episode.

The girl was crying on the roof with a piano playing and the protagonist felt bad for her, and blah, blah, blah, but I felt NOTHING.

Rather, I was enraged. How dare this anime ask me to care about this girl I met twenty minutes ago? I couldn’t care less about her because the anime didn’t give me any time to care. Had they dragged it out across 3, even 2 episodes, I might’ve cared, but not when the pace was flying by at Mach 5.

Don’t do this in your LNs. If a major character has a severe problem, dark past, personality issue, whatever, don’t resolve it a couple chapters after she’s first introduced.

I wouldn’t even bother solving it until a few volumes later. You’re writing a series, it’s better to drag it out so we can really care about her.

You can and should resolve a few of her issues along the way, but not her core issue. Once the huge one’s been resolved, you don’t really have anywhere else to go. Save it for when readers care for her and will really feel that emotional impact.

Importance of Quiet Time

Good pacing is like a roller-coaster. A good one has an equal amount of ups and downs. Too much up and the riders get bored, too much down and they’ll probably vomit.

Your LN should employ the same logic. For every bit of fast pacing, you’ll want a bit of slow pacing. These slow-paced moments are referred to as ‘quiet time’.

This concept comes from the below video by Super Bunnyhop.

He applied it to video games, claiming good games feature intense moments of combat followed by a ‘quiet time’ (QT) of exploring the environment, collecting supplies, and traveling to the next combat location.

And I wholeheartedly agree. Too much combat wears the player out and doesn’t inspire them to continue playing. QT gives them a breather and allows them to prepare for the next encounter.

Games that do this are said to have good pacing.

Your LN can use the same logic. Your goal is to always make readers feel they are progressing to resolving the primary conflict. But if you do it too quickly, they will get exhausted.

So, give them some QT—roller-coaster style.

Did you just have a fast-paced car chase? Follow it by having your characters hide out and recover their strength in some abandoned warehouse. Then, start the next action scene. Up, down, up, down, in an endless rhythm.

Obviously, you don’t have to do that exactly, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt your pacing. Most negative criticism is heaped on novels with slow-pacing. But the dangers of a ‘too-fast’ pace shouldn’t be understated.

You don’t solve slow-pacing by replacing it with fast-pacing. You incorporate a balance of the two. Too much of one or the other will result in bad pacing.

Feel free to have a lot of action, but never discount the importance of quiet time.

Talk to Yourself

I edit my writing in two ways. One, by reading and rewriting, and two, by reading everything out loud.

Yes, I read all my novels out loud several times before calling them complete. And sure enough, I still find errors I didn’t catch during the first ‘talk-through’.

But reading your writing out loud is not only beneficial to editing, but also to pacing. A novel you can’t read out loud without getting tripped up likely has poor pacing. Well-paced writing never trips up readers in their head or out loud.

Your goal is to make every sentence flow like a pristine river. If anything feels ‘off’, play with the punctuation, structure, word choice, and so on.

This advice usually only applies to non-fiction like this article, but I find it to help with LNs. I maybe wouldn’t advise it if you were writing literary fiction. As it’s full of beautiful description, metaphors, and words no one would ever say out loud, making it read like you talk probably won’t end well.

LNs, conversely, are targeted toward a younger, not-as-educated audience. Since you’ll probably be leaving out the ‘fancy’ writing, writing it how you talk is often the most beneficial to your overall pacing.

But even if you don’t find that it helps your pacing, it will always help you find missing words or typos.

That Perfect Flow

Good pacing is hard to achieve, but not impossible.

As you might’ve noticed, most of this article addresses how to solve slow-pacing. That’s because most fledgling Authors are accused of having slow-pacing. Focus on resolving that issue first.

It may be tempting to cut swathes of your text, but don’t lest you be accused of ‘too-fast’ pacing instead.

The perfect flow is a roller-coaster full of ups, downs, unique twists, and sudden circles. A good coaster makes people want to go again, while a bad one makes them want to get off halfway through their first ride.

Do the same with your LN. Your goal is to make your audience want to keep reading no matter what.

And the best way to do that is through good pacing. Which, after this article, you now know how to achieve just that.


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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