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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

Pacing Your Story: How To Avoid (And Fix) Common Pitfalls

A frequent pitfall in writing the first (second, or tenth) draft is pacing. Pacing, or the rhythm and flow of a story, is vital for propelling readers through your narrative.

Striking the right balance is crucial but difficult at times. In this exploration, we'll delve into the intricacies of pacing and how to navigate some common issues.

The Slow Burn

One of the pitfalls many writers stumble upon is the slow burn – a pace that meanders, leaving readers yearning for action. While it's essential to allow moments for character development and world-building, an excessively slow pace can lead to disengagement.

Tips to remedy the slow burn:

1. Tighten the Narrative: Trim unnecessary details and filler words.

2. Introduce Conflict: Inject conflict to propel the story forward. This could be internal struggles or external challenges that force characters to act.

3. Vary Sentence Structure: Experiment with sentence length and structure. Short, punchy sentences can quicken the pace—great for action scenes—while longer ones can provide breathing space.

The Breakneck Sprint

Conversely, hurtling through a story at breakneck speed can leave readers gasping for breath, struggling to keep pace with the unfolding events.

Strategies to manage a breakneck sprint:

1. Scene Transitions: Smooth transitions between scenes allow readers to digest information and adjust to new developments.

2. Character Reflections: Give your readers some breathing space after a high tension scene with moments of introspection that provide insight into the characters' thoughts and emotions.

3. Dialogue Pacing: Vary the pacing of dialogue to create natural ebbs and flows. Much like sentence strucutre, rapid-fire exchanges can heighten tension, while slower conversations give the reader time to digest.

The Zigzag of Inconsistency

Inconsistency in pacing can be just as detrimental as a consistently slow or fast pace. Sudden shifts can be jarring, disrupting the reader's immersion in the narrative.

Methods to achieve pacing consistency:

1. Establish a Rhythm: Determine the natural rhythm of your story based on its genre.

2. Foreshadowing: Plant seeds of upcoming events early in the narrative. This not only creates anticipation but also prepares readers for shifts in pacing.

3. Beta Reader Feedback: Seek feedback from beta readers to gauge how pacing resonates with them. Fresh perspectives can identify pacing issues you might have overlooked.

Writing involves a continuous focus on pacing, maintaining a balance that adjusts with each narrative development. The key is staying mindful of your story's inherent rhythm.

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