Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Pacing

Yes, I picked another tough topic! Pacing--the movement of your plot from beginning to end. You can have great pacing, where the reader absolutely can't put the book down because she can't find a slow part for stopping. Or you can have mediocre pacing, with sluggish scenes that don't move the story forward fast enough to keep the reader's interest.

While an action-packed romantic suspense or thriller lends itself to faster pacing by definition, you have to take advantage of the twists and turns to make it work. Use fewer drawn-out descriptions and focus on the suspense.

Typically, other genres need a little boost. Contemporary romance won't have the same tension a well-written RS has, but keeping the characters active and the plot moving forward can help maintain good flow. Remember backstory and info dumps??? Those slow down the pacing and give the reader opportunities to stop reading or lose interest.

Ways to create good pacing:

1) Keep your characters as active as possible. Don't allow them to spend much time thinking about things that have already happened. Avoid the cursed beginning-of-the-chapter recap.

2) Don't fall victim to backstory and/or info dumps. Ease tidbits of information into the story as needed--exposition!

3) Don't define pacing by action alone. Sexual tension, good opening and chapter-end hooks, and emotional ups and downs can produce a story that moves along at a steady pace.

4) Use your genre to help decide what good pacing means. It won't necessarily be the same for paranormal and historical.

5) Remember to use POV to your advantage. Show instead of tell. Use active rather than passive sentence structure. Be the character!

6) Avoid unnecessary description, movements, and dialogue.

7) Use tight writing, with minimal adjectives/adverbs and crutch words. Use contractions wherever possible.

8) Internal dialogue can draw the reader in and reveal important details about the character while keeping the pacing strong.

9) Keep GMC a vital part of characterization and the plot.

10) Use POV choice to create tension. Who has the most to lose in each scene?

Are you noticing how almost every part of writing craft ties into pacing? Actually, each aspect of craft overlaps with others. As one area improves, another will follow. The most important point is never stop trying to improve your craft. You didn't think I'd get all philosophical, did you??? :D

Let's take a look at genre definitions next week. Do you know what makes a paranormal a paranormal and not a contemporary or a historical?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Hi Mellanie

    Here's a question for you which relates, I think, to pacing. As a reader I get very tired when I am faced with a long chapter if the previous ones have been shorter. Or if it is a short chapter when the others have been longer, then I feel short changed (unless there is a good reason for it to be short, eg, dramatic change in the story).

    Therefore as a writer I try to even out my chapters and spend a lot of time checking the chapter length for that reason - so if I add more to a chapter or delete something I spend time changing the others as well. For every one of my books the editor(s) have said it is well paced - but is that partly because of evenness of chapter length?

    1. Hi Jen!

      I've found that chapter length varies some (I aim for a minimum word/page count), but the scene and the way it unfolds usually determines whether the chapter is shorter or longer. I avoid adding "filler" and cutting out important details to create a certain length. If the pacing is well-balanced, I don't think the reader notices the difference--unless it's significant (12 pages vs. 20 or more). My personal opinion--A well-written book makes the reader lose track of how many pages she's read, and in the end that's more important than chapter length.

  2. Thanks for this post, Mellanie! I'm not a fan of prologues for the reasons mentioned--far too often, the purpose of a prologue seems to fall into "info dump" territory. I find it better--and more intriguing--when tidbits of backstory are doled out along the way.

    Jen mentioned chapter length, and I'd actually been told that much sentence length, you don't necessarily want all your chapters the same length. Some variance is helpful, especially when it means adding to or subtracting from a logical break in scene just to level out the word count.

    1. I agree, J.Rose. Prologues usually fit in the backstory/info dump realm. The information can almost always be scattered in when necessary.

      I prefer to use the logical breaks to create scene and chapter breaks. Let the story dictate the length of scenes and chapters by showing what needs to be shown--notice I didn't say "tell." :D If you keep the writing tight and concise, I likely wouldn't care if your chapters varied in length.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great as always, Mellanie. I always look forward to your Wednesday posts!