In writing, pacing means the speed at which your story moves. It means that your story is neither too quick nor too slow. If your story has good pacing, then events occur in your plot at the right time and allow for emotional resolution among your characters. The pacing of a story sets the stage for how a reader will experience the story. Often, when I come away from a good book, part of that quality comes from the fact that it was well-paced.
For me, pacing is one of the most difficult things to achieve in a story. In the past, my National Novel Writing Month attempts have moved slowly because I know I have a long way to go, and then extremely quickly because I’m suddenly running out of time. In between, not much happens plot-wise. Even when you’re just writing in general, without some crazy deadline hanging over your head, it can be difficult to find the balance of character development, plot points, and exposition.
According to author Caro Clarke, this problem with pacing stems from a lack of conflict and challenge. In her post about pacing, Clarke says, “Challenge implies battling something, overcoming opposition, and this is the heart of novel writing. Fiction is about challenges that the protagonist either triumphs over or is defeated by (Emma or Madame Bovary, for example). A novel must have conflict, not just in its overarching idea, but in every single scene.”
She makes a good point here — conflict must show up everywhere, not just in your overarching plot. It’s all well and good to determine that your story will be a classic “man versus nature” tale, but you have to include that conflict (or at least some type of conflict) in every scene that you write. Otherwise, the scenes will fall flat and be uninteresting to write as well as read.
Pacing may be the culprit behind writer’s block as well as reader’s disinterest. If you’re not writing something that bubbles over with conflict and is intriguing enough to hold your attention, then you’re bound to get bored with it and be unwilling to continue working on it.
In general, pacing is an important writing concept to keep in mind and practice. Pacing creates the right tone for your story, keeps readers engaged, and helps you maintain interest in the story that you’re working on. Happy writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan