Lately I’ve been giving zoom workshops on a few critical novel-writing subjects. Topics that I think are under-taught and under-optimized by writers. One of these topics is pacing. Here’s are some tips from my pacing workshop, Move Along, Folks.
Pacing is the speed at which you tell your story. How quickly you’re forwarding and deepening the plot. Is it too fast, appearing rushed? Too slow, losing the reader’s interest? Usually, the problem is the latter: set-up paragraphs at the start of scenes, aftermath sequences where we consider what just happened, scenes flailing at character development or background, too many words, saying things twice, plus repeating yourself. And then there are the really tough pacing issues.
Pacing can be hard to judge. It’s part of your style. It’s dictated to some extent by your material and the style of book you’re writing. None of this excuses us from working at pacing, though.
I tend to write longish and cut back in the rewrite. But also when planning and writing, I try to forestall slow pacing using a few diagnostic questions like these:
- How proactive is my major character? Will she be able to power the story’s pacing with her action-orientation?