“Story Issues” Part 1: Pacing

So your story has issues. That’s why you’re revising it, right? Here’s some advice from the experts on HOW you can fix those issues.


Issue #1: PACING

What is it?

Speed. Momentum. Getalong. The pace by which your story goes forward.

What’s wrong with it?

“A key ingredient of proper pacing is balance,” author MaryAnn Diorio says. “As fiction writers, we must create the proper balance between moments of heightened tension in our story and moments when we provide our readers with places to take a needed break from sustained tension. Too much tension will exhaust our readers emotionally, and too little tension will bore them.”

“Pacing problems fall into two categories,” says author Janice Hardy. “Too slow or too fast. While this makes it easy to diagnose the trouble, it takes a bit more to solve the actual problem. Too slow can be an editing issue, a stakes issue, or even a structure issue. Too fast can be a plotting problem, a characterization problem, or yes, a structure problem.”

According to WD’s Courtney Carpenter, “Pacing is part structural choices and part word choices, and uses a variety of devices to control how fast the story unfolds.”

How can you fix it?

“Two techniques that will help you balance your pacing are action passages and story breaks. Action passages are those parts of your story that raise the tension. They include scenes where a lot is happening very fast, leaving your character little or no time to ponder her situation. Story breaks are those parts of your story where you slow down a bit.  Story breaks include descriptive passages or internal monologue.” – MaryAnn Diorio, author

“When driving a manual transmission car, you choose the most effective gear needed for driving uphill, maneuvering city streets, or cruising down a freeway. Similarly, when pacing your story, you need to choose the devices that move each scene along at the right speed.” – Courtney Carpenter, Writer’s Digest (View the full article here)

Too slow often means too much of something, according to Janice Hardy. “Long sentences, heavy exposition, speeches. Things a reader has to slug through to get to the actual story.” Too fast, on the other hand, can be attributed to story structure (i.e. too much action without enough breathing room for the reader.) “Dialog is fast-paced, as is action, but if you skimp on the rest of what makes a story interesting, you end up with a breathless ride that goes by too quickly for your reader to enjoy.” (Read the full article here.)




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