What Is Pacing?

images-7People who love to read but have never written books are cognizant of the pacing. Pacing sets the tempo of your story. Is it a fast read or did it seem to drag on for days? Hopefully you’ve found a balance between the two and they perform like a fine tuned orchestra.

I have read many good books that I skipped portions of, because I was tired of reading about the duchess’s frilly dress or  inner hull of a slave ship. I’m glad the authors did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down your story. I have read other books that were nonstop action that left me wanting; they were missing the details that made the story real and the characters endearing.

So how do you control the pacing of your story since once you start writing it seems to take on a life of it’s own? Be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given and the patience of your reader.

There are three main ways to control the pace of your novel:

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.  Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. This is common sense really.  You have to move a story along faster if you have a limited amount of time to share it.
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I hope this blog helped you get a better idea of what pacing is, and how it effects your novel. I would also recommend that you stop by Quintessentialeditor’s blog from this past week for tips on how to correct your pacing.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. If you haven’t added your name to my followers, I would like to ask you to consider following me.  I write a blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week. Followers are notified via email whenever a new post is published.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R

What Is Pacing?

What Is The Purpose Of Pacing?

Pacing sets the tempo for the novel. How fast or slow it moves depends on the function of the scene and the intent of the author. As discussed in my previous blog, you can speed your story up or slow it down based on how you use exposition and action.

When introducing new characters or interjecting scenes of day to day life, your pacing is usually slow.

Intensely dramatic or violent scenes can be either fast or slow depending on your intent. If you slow down the scene, you can ring out the last bit of suspense and mystery as well as heighten the drama by stretching out something that occurs in seconds. Slowing down the pace to dramatize the most important moments of the story works really well too.

Sudden shifts in pacing from slow to fast can shock your reader and make your book memorable.

Nicholas Sparks is a great example for sudden shifts in pacing. In his books Message In a Bottle and The Best Of Me, he uses the entire book to build a relationship between the main characters only to kill one of them off on the last page. I was totally shocked and a little mad after reading those books. I like happy endings. But he achieved what he set out to do. They evoked strong emotions and I’ve never forgotten them.

Tolkein’s The Lord Of The Rings, vacillates between exposition and action. The varied pace and information provided, allows us to visit middle earth and participate in it’s history. 

Remember fast pacing is action packed leaving us breathless and slow pacing is  meditative and dramatic.

Expository scenes are to give the reader a breather and prepare them for what comes next.

Pacing is an important part of your novel, and if you are a novice, it’s something you probably haven’t given much thought too.  I know I didn’t. I love to read and knew that some of the books I read were more fast paced than others, but didn’t stop to think that the author made them that way.

When you begin the editing process, pacing is another fundamental to add to your list of things to review.

Hope this blog got you thinking. I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments on this blog or suggestions to make it better please let me know.

Also I would like to ask you to consider following me. By signing up you will receive notices through email whenever I update or publish a new blog.

-Jan R

What Is The Purpose Of Pacing?