I’ve been listening to a workshop Jennifer Crusie gave on turning points at 2009’s RWA Conference. What’s a turning point? It’s when your plot goes from a normal, stable situation to a life-changing event.
Ms. Crusie notes that there are usually several turning points in a manuscript:
- Beginning of your Novel – when the protagonist’s world changes
- Crisis – things get a bit worse (@ around 30k words if you are writing a 100k novel)
- Point of No Return – Your character has irrevocably changed by this point (Middle of your novel – around 55k)
- Dark Moment (around 80k)
- Climax – return to stability
Why aren’t these turning points evenly spaced? For pacing purposes. You want the crisis points to come closer together toward the end to propel the reader forward. This makes the story feel like a quick read.
This is one of the clearest explanations on pacing I’ve heard, and every time I write a new story I am now mindful of those turning points and where they come into play.