Pacing

Pacing is an important part of keeping your reader engaged in your story. So what is it? Pacing is the speed your story plot takes to move forward. If your pacing is too fast, you’ll overwhelm your readers. If your pacing is too slow, you’ll bore them enough to put your story down. So the key is to have the pacing just right. So how do we accomplish this? Let’s take a look.

  • Outline, either before or after the first draft. An important part of pacing is using a story structure, whether this is the Three Act Structure or the Fichtean Curve, implement a story structure to ensure constant pacing. You don’t want long stretches of slow action or barrages of fast action. More on story structure here.
  • Use body language and narrative exposition with dialogue to speed up or slow down pacing. This is also important to convey character emotions and reactions and show instead of tell.
  • Write (or edit) specifically for pacing between plot points. Divide the action up evenly amongst your story and word count.

So how do we speed up pacing?

  • Don’t start too early in the story. Your story should begin one step back from the inciting incident. Be wary of too much exposition in the beginning.
  • Make your protagonist act. Have her make decisions that move the plot forward.
  • Skip forward in time. Not detailing everything your protagonist does will help the plot move along faster. Summarize and skip ahead to get to the action.

How do we slow down pacing?

  • Dialogue is a great way to slow down and show instead of tell. Remember to pair dialogue with body language and exposition.
  • Don’t skip ahead. Just like skipping ahead speeds things up, showing more of what the protagonist is doing will help slow things down.

Most importantly, be consistent with your pacing. Spread out action and relief evenly to keep those pages turning and readers engaged. What stories have you read that had the perfect balance of pacing? Share your favorites below and happy writing!

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts and stories.

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