Notes from writing class - Pacing


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, while sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

Pacing refers to how fast or slow your story reads. A multitude of things can affect the pacing of your story: Sentence length, chapter length, unnecessary scenes, too much or too little dialogue, etc…

It’s harder to nail down than other issues in writing.

Some things you might consider looking at when trying to aim for the right pacing are:

1. Look at white space. Do you have long, dense paragraphs of description and narrative, with very little dialogue or action? You may have an area where you’ve slowed your pacing.

2. Look at sentence length. On the average, are your sentences long or short? Long sentences will slow the pace of your story where short sentences will speed it up. Depending on the type of scene you are writing you may want to lean more one way or the other. (Please note that over all, you should strive for a nice combination of varied sentence length.) Actions scenes are meant to be faster paced and will usually have short, snappy sentences. This makes your reader feel the pace of the events happening. On the other hand, in love scenes, you might want longer, more poetic sentences so you draw out the beauty of the moment.

3. Look at dialogue. Is it necessary? Does the characters conversation move the story forward or are you providing unnecessary information to “fill pages?”

4. Look at the scenes in your book. Be ruthless here. Are they really necessary? Do the move the story forward? If not, cut them. Many manuscripts suffer from a saggy middle where there are a lot of “fluff scenes” that take up time but don’t really take us in the right direction. It might hurt, but cut them for the betterment of the story.

Comments

Pale Rambler said…
Pacing is under-appreciated. I struggle more at the beginning, when I'm figuring out the characters and their relationships. My WIP is no exception. The first part drags because I don't know the characters well enough. Somewhere around page 60 I grew comfortable with them and the story took over. The first draft is almost finished, and I already have a good feel for what needs to be retooled to balance out the pacing and structure (I hope).