When I first entered publishing I was introduced to the concept of narrative momentum. This is often misinterpreted as pacing or rhythm, but it has more to do with the propulsive quality of a story—that spark and investment in voice, character, and plot—that makes a reader want to keep going. Your writing can be gorgeous on a line level, but the story also needs a pulse. I need to feel swept from one moment to the next with a sense of direction and an understanding of the stakes of the narrative.
Honestly this more or less boils down to: Have something happen in your book, and make sure we care about it! But I think that, especially in literary fiction and creative nonfiction, this ingredient is crucial and often overlooked. When you’re revising your manuscript, go through each scene and ask yourself: How does this lead to the next moment? Where is the story going, and can the reader feel that they’re headed toward some sort of reckoning? In your favorite books how does each moment move the narrative forward, and what both glues you to the page and gives cohesion to the story?
When momentum is good, it feels a lot like riding along the crest of a wave: the current swelling beneath you, this force sweeping along, carrying you toward the shore before it all breaks open. As a writer there’s no better feeling than creating that sense of movement and power.
—Jade Wong-Baxter of the Frances Goldin Literary Agency