Writing 101: Pacing

Everyone has their own ideas about what makes writing "good" or "bad," but if your pacing is off there isn't going to be much of a competition between the two. Pacing is incredibly important...yet it goes ignored by many indie authors. If your characters make the decision to take a trip, buy the ticket and board the plane all in one paragraph, you really need to learn more about pacing in your writing. 

What Is It? 

Okay, so what is pacing? Every book has a pace, and usually it falls somewhere between two extremes: fast and slow. You can tell the difference when you read, even if you don't think about it consciously. Some books feel like a quick read -- you start them and them finish them and don't even know where the last 6 hours went. Other books that may take the same amount of reading time feel like they're dragggggging by; you look at the clock every hour, wondering how it's possible that five or six haven't passed since the last time check. That's pacing. In some books, events come hot and fast right on top of each other. In others, you may read many pages or chapters before anything new develops. 

Ideally, you want to establish a perfect pace in every book: not too fast and not too slow. The problems with a slow pace are obvious: readers are going to be bored, they're going to be aware of the time that's passing and they may grow tired enough to stop reading and give up on the book altogether. 

 Slow Reading

A slow pace makes lots of books absolutely intolerable to certain readers, while others may like the more serene feeling.

 In the main, you want to avoid writing a pace that's just too slow. Read your book and look for clues like over-writing and extreme length, which are often indicative of a very slow pace. Always remember that each and every scene ought to serve a purpose: it advances the plot and/or it offers the reader information the reader needs to know. If you're writing a bunch of scenes that do neither, your pace is too slow. Things need to happen. They don't have to happen in every single paragraph, but they should be happening every few pages. Otherwise, the reader will feel bored and won't feel a whole lot of motivation to keep reading your story. 

A very slow pace makes the book drag, and drag, and drag...is that how you want people to describe your book? Does that sound like something you want to read?

 Fast Reading

Carrie hung up the phone and bought the train ticket online. She threw a change of clothes into a bag, left her apartment and went to the train station to board the train to Connecticut. When she stepped off the train two hours later, she was home. 

Readers have to have some time to process what's going on in your book. If events are coming right on top of each other, readers are going to have trouble absorbing everything in the story, keeping track of characters and remembering events in their proper order. It comes across as bad writing, and there's a good reason for that. When the pace of your book is super-fast, you're not leaving much room for descriptive writing. You're not even leaving much room for readers to breathe. No one can absorb information if it's coming at them every single second. You shouldn't be lobbing your words at readers like bullets.


Pacing that's too fast is every bit as problematic as pacing that's too slow, and that's why writers have to learn how to stay within a happy medium between the two. The best way to do this is to vary your writing. Toss a couple of pitches that are quick and unexpected, then ease off a little and take your time with the next pieces of information. Change between fast and slow pacing to keep the reader engaged and in suspense. Being consistent is good...being too consistent is boring. Speed it up and slow it down to create a good pace overall in your writing, and re-read your words to make sure you aren't mixing up your pace too much. 

Pacing is an art that every author has to master, and even very successful writers struggle with it constantly. Keep working at your craft and be mindful of your pace, and you'll find yourself getting better and better all the time.

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  1. Great Post:) Love the Writers 101!
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