Monday, April 30, 2012


What is Pacing and how do I fix it?

In nearly all of my WIPs at one point or other, or over the whole thing, readers have frowned and said the pacing was off.  But no one was able to explain how to fix it.  Changing scene length didn't work.  Shorter sentences didn't work.  What was to be done?

In my current critique group we read 3000 words or less at a time, and we meet every two weeks.  How are you supposed to keep up momentum with such small chunks over a two week interval?  I wondered.  But actually, doing that showed me exactly what was wrong with my pacing.  For me, pacing is simple.  Every scene, every 3000 word chunk, has to do two things.

1) It has to contain an event that is relevant to the plot.
2) It has to contain or continue the characters' plan for what happens next.

This is my formula for momentum.  It may not work for anyone else, but for me, one of my main problems is that I tend to write lovely scenes that dispense important information, and are inherently boring.  To keep my characters active and dynamic, I need to keep them actively thinking about the situation, let them make plans and take action, even though I know those plans will fail and their actions backfire.

Also, if nothing happens in the story for 3000 words, or if what happens is repetitive, doesn't offer something new, doesn't let something change, it's time to cut!

1 comment:

  1. Deciding what and when to cut is the hardest part for me. I write lovely long scenes and lovely long discriptions and find later that my characters have sat on their butts and realized how beautiful everything is for the last four pages. But by then usually I'm convinced how beautiful everything is too and I don't want to get rid of whatever they were gushing over.