Writing Advice: Pacing Your Story


Pacing has always been a hard aspect of writing for me to master. Pacing is the rate at which actions move in your story. Some books have a slow pace, which means that the actions take place more gradually over many chapters or sections. Other books have quick, brisk pacing, which means that they speed along with action taking place quickly throughout the entire piece.

Honestly, neither type of pacing is right or wrong. You may want to create a slow pace in your writing project, and that’s fine. But if you want to write a book or story that people might describe as a “page turner,” then you’ll have to learn how to set a quicker pace to your writing.

On his blog, Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig has written about 25 Ways to Write a Real Page-Turner of a Book. The very first item that he covers in this list is pacing. I think that speaks to just how important it can be for your book or story. Chuck says, “[A thriller] doesn’t dally. It careens forth with a sense of barely-controlled energy, like a car barreling down a ruined mountain road with its brake line cut. It doesn’t matter if the book isn’t a thriller — you can still lend some of that energy to the fiction just the same. A sense of breathlessness, of anticipation, of sheer gotta-know-more.”

I’m pretty sure we’ve all read a book like this. Personally, I remember reading Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and feeling so annoyed whenever I had to put the book down. I wanted to know more, I wanted to know what would happen next, and I wanted to know where the book was going. That was, I believe, a by-product of the way that Atkinson paced her novel. Reading a book like that, one that makes you want to keep turning pages and keep returning to the book, is a fun and breathtaking experience. I think that writing a book like that can also be an enjoyable experience for writers.

So, what are some ways to create fast pacing in your story? It all begins with how you plan your story. Whether you create an in-depth outline or not, it’s important to at least know where you’re going and what you want to do on the way there. What are some mile-markers you want to hit during your story? If you know those, you can build up to them.

Keeping the dialogue quick and the description to a minimum. As we discussed last week, description (exposition) can drag down a story and make it seem more slowly paced because you’re stopping to explain something to the readers. If you do less describing or explaining in your story, then it will seem like it’s moving more quickly.

Do you have some tips for pacing your story? Share them in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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