Pacing a story appropriately will keep readers engaged. Unfortunately, many mistakenly think this means the story needs to be rushed.
I see a lot of trends in today’s literature. Perhaps the biggest one is that every writer seems to be in a rush. Many new writers try to keep the pacing blazing hot. They’ve heard that in today’s world, kids are trained to think in “sound bites,” and anything longer than a television commercial bores them.
As a result, writers try to keep their description stark, the narration nonexistent, and the action heavy. They write rapid-fire dialog.
Unfortunately, their stories become a blur. They never really come alive.
Rushing a Story vs. Pacing a Story
When I talk to the authors about this problem, they’ll always begin to explain by saying, “I was afraid that it would be too slow.” Stop being afraid.
Pacing is important, but it’s not all-important. I love an energetic story as much as anyone, but great writers manage to bring their worlds and characters to life without sacrificing the pacing of the plot.
“Rushing” a story isn’t the same as “pacing” it. Years ago, when people rode horses, they found that they could get the most out of an animal if they “paced” it. They’d walk the horse for a bit, speed it into a canter, then run it, then let it cool down by walking again. Then let it stop and graze and drink, then go through the whole process over and over again. That’s what the word “pacing” means. If you just leap on your mount and run it as fast and as long as you can, you know what happens? The horse dies.
Stories are much the same way. There are scenes that you want to race through, and others that require you to slow down. In fact, there are some scenes that may need to come to a dead stop.
here was a time, say a century ago, when people used to talk about sitting down to “enjoy” a novel, or “relax into” a novel. A story wasn’t necessarily seen as an adrenaline pump.
The Virtues of Slowing a Story
There are a lot of virtues that a slow story can have that a fast story doesn’t. For example, if I want a story to be intellectually complex or morally profound, I may need to spend more time narrating thoughts and internal dialog as my protagonists wrestle with major life-changing questions. Does this slow the story down so that it’s boring? No, it actually engages the reader intellectually, and may carry the reader better than another action scene would.
If your reader is a normal, thinking person, he or she will most likely find such passages to be delicious—the best part of the tale. If your reader is not a normal, thinking person—heck, people like that don’t read anyway. Let’s face it. They’re staring at the television with glassy eyes, or sitting out on street corners and watching others drive by.
Similarly, if you’re writing luscious prose—if your own unique poetic eye informs every description, every phrase—then that can be a huge draw for readers, too. It lets them see their own world in a new, and often exciting, way.
Slow Down and Engross the Reader
There is tremendous power in writing a story that engrosses the reader, a tale that engages the reader intellectually, emotionally, and artistically while at the same time transporting the reader into a fully realized world. If you’re not engrossing the reader, if you’re just racing through the story in an effort to keep them on an adrenaline high, then your tale is like an engine that’s only running on one cylinder. It may chug along, but it’s clunky and inelegant.
So authors who rush through a story, sacrificing clarity, profundity, and grace in an effort to draw readers run a huge risk. Too often their stories come off as feeling artless or vapid.
Slow down. Your job as an author is to pace your story, to make it delicious in a number of ways. If you feel that your description is weak, don’t cut it out or try to gloss over it. Instead, you have to learn to write gorgeous, powerful description.
That’s your job as a writer—to become multifaceted as an entertainer.
Apex Glimpses, News, and Shout-outs!
NEW from MyStoryDoctor.com! The Triarchy Method of Story: A New Writing Course by September C. Fawkes.
Craft your best book by focusing on what matters most: The “bones” of story.
This content-focused course will help you:
- Brainstorm better and more relevant material
- Evaluate what ideas most belong in your story (preventing you from writing hundreds of pages that need to be scrapped), and
- Craft a page-turning plot with compelling characters that sticks with readers long after they’ve closed the book (. . . and hopefully leads them to preorder your next book).
- And more
If you’ve found yourself writing and rewriting the same scenes, acts, or arcs, only to make them marginally better; or have struggled creating complex characters who are engaged in meaningful plots; or if you’ve been experiencing writer’s block over what you need to write next and how… The Triarchy Method will show you how to write a stronger, solid story by focusing on the “bones” of the story.
Character is represented by the rib cage—it houses the heart of story. It’s how the audience gains emotional experience from the narrative, through (to some degree) empathy.
Plot is represented by the backbone—it holds the story upright and together. It’s the curvature that makes up the narrative arc, the spine that runs from beginning to end.
Theme is represented by the skull—it hosts the intellect of story. It’s how the audience gleans meaning that sticks with them long after the narrative is over. It’s why the story matters.
This live, online class is limited to 10 students and will focus on the core principles of each of the “bones” and how to structure them. Classes start March 7 and run Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 pm Mountain Time (8:30pm EST) for a total of 23 classes. Classes ends on May 25.
For more information, visit https://mystorydoctor.com/the-triarchy-method-of-story/
About the Instructor
September C. Fawkes has worked in the fiction-writing industry for over ten years and has been editing stories for longer. She has edited for both award-winning and best-selling authors, as well as new writers. She has worked on manuscripts written for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers, and specializes in fantasy and science fiction.
For seven years, she worked through New York Times best-selling author David Farland, providing feedback on his workshop students’ assignments, editing their manuscripts, and sometimes, even editing David’s own books.
When not working, she is running an award-winning writing tip blog. She has also served as a writing coach on Writers Helping Writers and teaches at writing conferences. Some may say she needs to get a social life. It’d be easier if her fictional one wasn’t so interesting.
MICHAEL HAUGE, one of Hollywood’s Top Coaches & Story Experts is coming to Apex in February!
We are running a poll on the Apex Facebook group on which topic Michael is going to teach. If you haven’t voted yet and would like to, you’ll find it on the pinned section. Poll will close on Jan 28, 2023 at Midnight. Currently Seduce the Reader in the First 10 Pages is in the lead followed by Creating Powerful Scenes.
Michael is the best-selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as well as the 20th Anniversary Edition of his classic book Writing Screenplays That Sell, and his latest book, Storytelling Made Easy: Persuade and Transform Your Audiences, Buyers and Clients – Simply, Quickly and Profitably. He has presented seminars, lectures and keynotes in person and online to more than 300,000 participants worldwide, including countless screenwriters, novelists and filmmakers. He has consulted on projects starring (among many others) Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon. According to Will Smith, “No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.” https://storymastery.com/
- 10 Elements of Every Great Story
- Story Structure and Character Arc
- Seduce the Reader in the First 10 Pages
- Creating Powerful Scenes
- Mastering the 60 Second Pitch
Mastermind Update & Links
Since January 2020, Apex has enjoyed twice-a-week zoom calls with masters of the industries and other experts. However, not everyone may be aware that David Farland was presenting all of them for the first few months.
Inside the Apex library on Teachable, under APEX ZOOM CONFERENCE MEETINGS–which holds hundreds and hundreds of interviews and presentations–are 44 zoom calls with our great Master Storyteller, David Farland. A treasure to watch and rewatch.
The Searchable Mastermind document is a work-in-progress; however, all of Dave’s calls are up and easy to find at the top of the page. Other zoom calls are also available to find. Currently, and working backward, we have from March 2021 to now, available, which can be searched by topic, by date, and by speaker.
This is one of the tools we are adding to help make things easier to both decide what to attend live and what to watch on the replays.
These tools include “At a Glance” for both Strategy Meetings and for Mastermind, and we have a searchable index for the replays.
https://same-timpani-08a.notion.site/Mastermind-At-A-Glance-de55feec71e94e768eeed5d69becfc54 Mastermind at a Glance
https://same-timpani-08a.notion.site/Strategy-Teachable-c675f3d7f7464b4e99bc0c4e9b1c3667 – searchable index for Strategy
https://same-timpani-08a.notion.site/Mastermind-Teachable-24d20cc2ed874313aa48227466e64895 – searchable index for Mastermind
📌 Shout-out to some of our Apexers for this week!
- Bex May for WotF Honorable Mention in the 4th Quarter in 2022
- Brenda Carr for making the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List of 2022 with “The Diaper Room Key to Cosmic Plumbing,” in Pulphouse #17
- Candice R Lisle for her 2022 Critters Readers’ Choice Award: Best Positive Future Short Story – Follow the Pretrons
- Wulf Moon for his 2022 Critters Readers’ Choice Awards:
Best Author: Wulf Moon (fourth year in a row)
Best Nonfiction Book: The Illustrated Super Secrets of Writing
Best Writers’ Workshop: Wulf Moon’s SUPER SECRETS Workshops (fourth year in a row)
Best Writers’ Resource: Wulf Moon’s SUPER SECRETS (third year in a row, now at 826,000 views!)
- And David Farland for 2022 Critters Readers’ Choice Award: Best Book Editor
We miss you Dave!