You have a great story in mind and can imagine the highlights, the challenges, the twists, and the great ending. Translating your work from your brain to the page means writing out details that will help your storytelling—but might also slow it down. At Writer’s Relief, we know the pace of your story is vital: Too slow and readers lose interest; too fast and they’re overwhelmed. The right pacing will help keep your readers moving through the story as events and scenes unfold. Here are our best writing tips for how to pace your story.
1-2-3 Writing Tips: How To Pace Your Story
One: Start with an outline. Pacing refers to how quickly or slowly the story unfolds: You want to have a good balance of slower moments and faster scenes. It might be tempting to jump right in and start writing, but using an outline, beat sheet, or storyboard to break down your story can help map out the natural flow and pacing. By reviewing the outline, you can determine where the rhythm of your story might need to speed up or slow down to suit the plot.
Two: Let the pacing reflect what is happening. When you’re writing a novel, you have more time to let the story unfold. In a short story, however, you’ll need to get to the action faster.
If the narrative is turning toward downtime or exposition, it might be time to slow the pace. When you want to slow things down, use longer sentences to add descriptions and introspection. This still serves your story well and sets the scene. Be careful: You don’t want to add details that don’t serve the story, just for the sake of adding more words. As the action ramps up, the pace should quicken. Consider writing choppier sentences, having fewer characters in the scene, or having events happen in rapid-fire sequence to move things along.
Structural elements can affect the pace of the story as much as your actual writing. Make sure your scene and chapter breaks are intentional and that they move the story forward. Plan story breaks carefully so they don’t occur at inappropriate times. Cliffhangers are a great way to pace your story—just don’t overuse them or they will become too predictable.
Three: Shake things up! Create a varying flow through your work by using pacing techniques that include writing scenes out of order using flashbacks or dropping your readers into the middle of the action. Using multiple POVs to narrate your story can be tricky, but will also be rewarding as different characters share the experiences through different perspectives.
Reveal information carefully. Concealing information to be shared with the reader later can influence the pace of your story and take your work in a new direction. Of course, when shaking things up, keep in mind the outline you established.
Good pacing is essential to your storytelling. When your story is properly paced, readers will be eagerly turning pages to learn what happens next. Varying the pacing to match the story and using different writing techniques can help achieve your pacing goals. By following the three writing tips outlined above, you’ll be on your way to great results!
Question: What techniques have you used to pace your stories?