How to Find the Perfect Pace for Your Story

How to Find the Perfect Pace for Your Story, Renea Guenther, Editing Your Novel, Revision, Pacing, Dialogue, Description

Have you ever noticed when you’re doing or reading something you love, time seems to fly by?

And before you know it, it’s over, and you’re left wishing it had lasted longer?

The opposite could be said for the things you hate. Time seems to drag, and you wish it would just end already.

The speed of your prose can have the same effect.

Short sentences combined with action and drama grab the reader’s attention. And before they know it, they’ve devoured the book.

Long sentences of internalization, backstory, or description make the reader’s eyes glaze over in boredom.

Forcing them to skim for the good parts, missing half the book in the effort just to reach the end.

However, action and drama without all the rest make for a story without any emotional connection between character and reader.

Because if we expect our readers to empathize with the character’s situation, or experience any type of emotion, we must find a balance between the two.

Your Pacing is Determined by Sentence Length, and the Number of Details the Reader Must Remember

Dialogue reads quickly because it’s a lot of short sentences in a row with plenty of white space on the page.

The short sentences simulate something happening quickly and don’t require a lot of thought to understand what’s happening.

Combined with action, this leaves reading pretty straight-forward and easy to follow.

The reader only needs to understand a piece at a time before moving on to the next.

Description, however, is made up of longer sentences and has little white space.

It builds upon each detail piece by piece, requiring all the facts to be gathered together and held within the reader’s mind until a complete picture can be formed.

This leaves the reader waiting until they have a solid image before they can move on to the next piece of information.

The long sentences make the reader slow down and think about what’s going on.

It may even require the reader to re-read the sentence or paragraph to process all the information it contains.

Fast is Not Always Better

However, a fast-paced story doesn’t necessarily mean the reader’s going to find it interesting or gripping.

In fact, too much too fast tends to make the whole story blur together in the mind, leaving the reader exhausted and remembering little of what they’ve just read.

While we want to keep things moving, we also want to give the reader a chance to absorb what’s happened and reflect on its implications.

We can do this by alternating between fast and slow scenes, dangling secrets or mysteries to keep the reader’s attention between the action, and creating an air of unpredictability to keep them guessing.

I’ve come across several slower-paced books that kept me riveted to the page.

Even though they took me a little longer to read, I still enjoyed them.

I love books like The Atlantis Gene or Primordia that make you really think.

These kinds of books are exciting, yet slower to process because of the amount of thought-provoking details the author chose to include.

There have been several times I’ve come across a particularly interesting passage that had me staring off into space for a bit while I consider the implications of what was said.

It all depends on what your readers expect and the story you choose to present.

FOR FURTHER READING

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Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.

She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.

She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.

From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.

She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.

When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.

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3 thoughts on “How to Find the Perfect Pace for Your Story

  1. Pingback: How Much Backstory is Too Much? – Renea Guenther

  2. Pingback: How Infodumping Can Kill Your Novel – Renea Guenther

  3. Pingback: The Benefits of Reading Aloud During the Editing Process – Renea Guenther

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