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Monday, November 02, 2009

The Balance of Pacing for Authors

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Pacing is the steady flow of the story, whether it be a fast pace or slow. Action scenes increases pacing, while reflective scenes slows pacing. Too much action can cause confusion and give the reader no time to reflect on what is happening, while too much reflection bogs the reader with unnecessary insight and detail in a character's thoughts and risks boring the reader. This is why proper balance is so important for a book's pacing.

Depending on the type of novel, an excellent strategy on pacing is to write an action scene and follow with a reflective scene. A suspense or thriller novel may require a more intense strategy of action scenes before a reflective scene. Action scenes are also a great way to enhance a sagging middle.

Ways to Increase Pacing
1) Introduce Conflict -- Create an obstacle that would prevent a character from achieving a goal. As soon as one conflict is about to be solved, introduce another conflict, or if possible, one that is worse.

2) Dialogue -- Intense or amusing dialogue can also increase pacing. It makes the flow read faster and can reveal new conflict, show tension, or reveal backstory in a way that doesn't slow pacing, but increases curiosity.

3) Foreshadowing -- Alerting the reader to potential conflict, not only increases pacing, but gives something for the reader to anticipate without knowing how an event will happen or how it will affect the characters and their decisions.

4) Add a Subplot -- By adding a new element or subplot to the story, the stakes are raised and a character's motivation can change.

Ways to Slow Pacing
1) Layer in Backstory -- Use backstory where necessary to help a reader understand a character's motivation to achieve their goals.

2) Stretch the Tension -- During a reflective scene, delay a person's decision or action by showing another POV, or have a secondary character interrupt the action. These techniques slow the action, while deepening the impact.

3) Use Introspection -- Show the internal thought process of a character's reaction to an event in an action scene.

Are there any other ways you change the pacing in your novels? What are some reasons that motivate you to consider pacing?


Wonderful information on pacing. I've never given actual thought to it, but I see the patterns in my own writing: an intense scene followed by a more reflective one.

Happy Monday!

Thanks for the wonderful tips.

A really useful post. Thanks for the helpful advice.

Pacing is something most of us don't think about until we struggle with a sagging middle. At least, that's the case with me, but I trying to keep it in mind as I write.