Story Pacing: Getting It Right in Your Early Reader

Yasmin in Charge
Yasmin in Charge by Saadia Faruqi

I’ve been looking at some of my older manuscripts including several early readers. Soemthing felt off in the pacing which isn’t surprising. Like picture books, early readers don’t have a lot of text but they still have complete stories with a beginning, middle and ending.

To figure out how to correctly pace a story, I new I needed to do some reading. Fortunately I had Saadia Faruqi’s Yasmin in Charge checked out from the library. This is a compilaiton of four Yasmin stories bound into one book. This was perfect because I could sit down and read all four stories.

My reading revealed that each three-chapter story shared similar pacing.

In Yasmin the TEACHER:

Chapter 1: Set Up/Yasmin receives a gift of colored pencils and takes them to school.

Chapter 2: Complication or Goal/Teacher leaves Yasmin in charge but no one cooperates.

Chapter 3: Solution/Yasmin challenges her fellow students to a contest.

In Yasmin the CHEF:

Chapter 1: Set Up/Yasmin’s family is getting ready for a party.

Chapter 2: Complication/She doesn’t like any of the food but her attempts are all failures.

Chapter 3: Solution/Yasmin realizes what she can make. Everyone else loves it, but she thinks of a way to improve it.

As you can see, early readers still have three acts.

Act 1:

The reader meets the character and is introduced to what is going on in this particular book.

Act 2:

A problem arises and the character makes multiple attempts to solve it. All attempts fail.

Act 3:

What it seems like failure is eminent, the character comes up with a new solution. The key to this solution is often something from Act/Chapter 1. In the end, things work out although there may be a hint that the character has a plan for the future.

If your story isn’t coming together, check your pacing. Too slow a start can bore readers. Too fast a start leaves them wondering what is going on. Don’t be surprised if, like Yasmin, it takes multiple attempts to achieve success!