Writing Advice: Pacing


One of the things that I struggle with the most when writing is pacing. During National Novel Writing Month — which is when I write the most and have come the closest to finishing a piece — I am constantly struggling with keeping my story on track and heading toward a definitive ending at a good pace. I think it’s something that a lot of writers struggle with, but everyone makes it seem so easy. After all, every story you read has been finished and has gone through editors, so it’s likely to have good pacing once you come to it as a reader.

Recently, the Writer Unboxed blog had a post regarding the issue of pacing. The article on Writer Unboxed had a good bit of advice that I’d like to quote here. The blog writer, Lorin Oberweger, made a good distinction between what scenes should move quickly in your story and which ones should move more slowly.

Oberweger writes, “events that in real life seem to unfold more slowly—driving from one part of town to another, for example, or sitting at the kitchen table and contemplating life over a cup of tea—should be dispensed with quickly and with as much economy as possible.” She adds exposition and backstory to this category, meaning that they should be brushed over quickly as well. These bits of your story do not need to be dwelt upon. Write them with bare bones language, saying only what is necessary for the reader, and then move on.

On the other hand, Oberweger says, “if it seems to happen quickly in life—such as a moment of violence, or if it creates a high level of emotion in us—such as a romantic encounter (uh, a good one, anyway), take your time, linger over the minute details, drill down, so to speak, and bring the narrative lens closer and closer.” Those humongous moments in your story will need to be dealt with in detail. Take your time with the climactic moments and the moments of realization for your characters. Those are what really make your story sing.

I hope this has been helpful to you in some way. Pacing is difficult to “get” and it’ll definitely take a few tries before you’ve learned it. But this advice from Writer Unboxed is a great place to start.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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