Creating the Perfect Pacing in Literature : 5 Top Tips to Master the Pace of Your Writing
Narrative pacing is such an important part of writing any story. Adding the perfect amount of plot elements that are equally spaced to keep the readers hooked is what transforms a normal book into a New York Times bestseller!
As your story unfolds, you need to always ensure that you think about the pacing of your story.
What Is Pacing in Literature?
Pacing refers to the total speed at which the action in your book starts to unfold. It can also be interpreted as how quickly your characters and plot move the story forward.
It is an extremely important part of writing. It affects your story's mood, helps build tension, aids in the development of your book's themes and ideas, and even allows for your readers to connect with your main characters as the story progresses.
So, why is pacing important? Well, you may think that you need to go-go-go when telling your story. However, a faster pace doesn't necessarily mean a better story. Depending on the aspect of the story that is being told, you may need to slow things down.
For example, if you are explaining the core magic system in your book, depending on its importance, you may tend to slow down a bit to ensure the readers understand the embedded concepts.
Control Pacing and How Your Story Unfolds
Even if you don't have a background in English, mastering pacing, especially with descriptive passages, is possible!
Remember, you need to aim for a well-paced story. If it is too fast-paced, you could unintentionally tire your readers out. If the plot is explained too slowly, you run the risk of boring your readers.
So, how do you control pacing? Here are a few techniques that you can use.
Mastering Pacing Means You May Need to Lengthen Your Sentences
Creating the perfect narrative pace can be done by being aware of your sentence length and the bulkiness of your paragraphs.
This is a careful consideration you need to make. The longer your sentences and paragraphs are, the slower your story's pacing will be. On the other hand, the shorter they are, the more they will speed up your story.
For younger audiences, you want a relatively well-paced story, with action scenes having longer sentences to keep them entertained. This is followed by shorter sentences to make the pacing quick and fast in-between major plot points and subplots.
Make Sure to Add Descriptions
Descriptions may add to the chapter length; however, they allow the readers to understand a character, the plot, and the author's writing style.
Make sure to use adjectives if you want your readers to take a breather. Events in a book can feel rather overwhelming, so to create a sense of "peace" before the next few action scenes, describe things the reader would want to know about.
Your descriptions don't need to have too much detail. It could simply be describing the world the character is in a bit more. In fiction books, a writer should focus on doing this throughout the chapters, as it provides the reader with context.
Narrative Pacing Needs Subplots
Good pacing means you take a break from the main plot and provide some information on a second storyline. Not only will this make the pace slower for your main plot's progression, but it will keep your story moving in a direction that values the readers time.
A word of caution: Most stories, especially in fiction writing, only have one or two subplots in the entire story. Dan Brown uses this to invoke suspense for his main plot!
Story Pacing Through Introspection, Flashbacks, and Backstory
If you want to give your readers a break and prepare them for a specific dialogue or scene that is to come, put it in as a flashback! A flashback explains the events that occurred earlier in the book or before the book begins.
By including them, you are reminding the reader of important aspects to remember before the plot's action sequences are initiated. To achieve this, short sentences can be used to allow the reader to commit different bits of information to memory!
You could even relax the pacing by adding some descriptive domains to a character's backstory. Here, word choice is important!
Regarding character introspection, the pace that you choose can be fast or slow. This is all dependent on the type of story you are telling. Do you want the character to make a spontaneous decision? Or is it a decision that will change the direction the novel is going?
How Does Dialogue in a Story Affect the Pace?
To keep a novel exciting, writers will typically include some dialogue. This could either be between characters or simply a single character's internal dialogue.
Let's take a look at how Harry Potter used dialogue. In the case of the Deathly Hallows, the dialogue between Harry and Voldemort was aimed at using slow pacing to build suspense and tension for the final battle!
But, if we were to look at a short story, slower-paced scenes would seem laborious and would hamper how exciting the story is. This is why rapid cycling between different paces is what will bring short stories to life!
Pacing Examples in Literature
Other than that from Harry Potter, the elusive Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles shows how good pacing can not only show how characters develop but also set the scene with more detail and a bit of added tension!
Doyle's entry into the canon of Sherlock Holmes followed Dr. John Watson as they were investigating a rather supernatural legend. Watson then describes the English moorland in great depth, seeing as it is the location for a very important action scene.
What the author does slows down the speed of the writing by using descriptive words to paint both a clear and vibrant image of the character's surroundings.
Your pace picks will inform how well your story is understood!
Pacing in Fiction Writing
Mastering pacing when writing fiction content can prove to be a bit more difficult. The reason for this is that there is usually so much detail to cover that pacing becomes more of a luxury.
Typically, writers will have a form of internal narration where the character provides their own personal understanding of what is happening in the story.
If too fast-paced, we lose all they are saying. This is why choosing to slow things down when writing fiction is the best way to err on the side of caution.
Rather make sure that readers understand the content of the chapter as well as how it affects other chapters than run through information at the speed of light and create a novel that the readers feel does not make any sense.
To combat this, you want to edit your manuscript before you start to create pacing intervals. Ask yourself, "What can I remove, and what is necessary to include?" You want to ensure that the narrative is purely factual and that you have fully captured the essence of your written work.
What many writers do is give their manuscript to two friends. They then tell the one to read it slow, and the other to read it fast. They are then quizzed about how well they understood the fictional world and whether overall the manuscript was too slow or fast-paced.
This is how pacing can be identified, and when writing, the characters' journeys are altered!
Pacing Story Essentials: Varying Your Narration
When writers write, they can choose to use two different types of narration. These are your scene narration and dramatic narration. In the former, the main goal is to create a conversation between characters. Typically, this type of narration will speed up the pace of your story.
On the other hand, your dramatic narration can also slow down the pace. But here, you run the risk of the story becoming too monotonous. To combat this, change the length of the specific story's segment.
Five Tips to Master the Pace of Your Writing
You now have a detailed understanding of what it means to change the pace of your novel. So, to get your pace absolutely perfect, we have a few tips for you!
Planning the Rise and Fall of Your Plot
If you know exactly how your plot starts and ends, you will know exactly where to increase and decrease the pace.
The pacing of the main action points of your plot is something that you, as the writer, must decide. Do you want your plot to unfold slowly? Or do you want the reader to be kept in a bit of suspense before the penultimate conclusion?
Separating Your Novel into Sizeable Chunks
When writers write stories, they usually think of the entire book's pacing rather than having set checkpoints where the pacing needs to be changed.
An example of how to combat this would be to place a mental tag on areas where the type of storytelling changes. In the end, tackle each segment individually, altering the pace where necessary. This is what will give the reader the well-known "rollercoaster effect."
Learn From the Veterans
Reading the stories written by veteran authors will give you an understanding of what defines perfect pacing.
We recommend that you read a genre that is similar to your own. This way, you will be able to see, from the perspective of a reader, where pacing changes are most beneficial!
The Effect of Sentence Structure
We've spoken quite a lot about how the length of a sentence or paragraph can affect the pacing. However, the structure of your sentences is just as important!
As soon as you start stringing together difficult words that are not commonly used in literature, you start to lose your reader's interest.
Remember, a reader wants to unwind when they are reading your story! They don't want to be seen opening Google to check the definitions of specific words.
Slow Things Down if You Think it Is Necessary
Chances are, if you think that your story is progressing too quickly, then it is. Asking a fellow writer for confirmation about this can alert you to problems that a reader may find distressing.
Remember, you can introduce a new storyline, bring in a character that we all thought had died, or even add a new domain to your magic system that was never there before. There are many different ways to slow things down, and they can all be found in this blog!
Pacing in literature is of immense importance, especially if you want your readers to have the best experience possible. But, if you feel you are struggling with pacing, or you don't even know where to begin, reach out to us at The Urban Writers!
We have the perfect team of esteemed and experienced writers who understand all the nuances of story creation. They'll not only be able to provide you with the perfect pacing but may even give you a few tips here and there!