If you ever found yourself late at night, an hour after you should have already gone to sleep, saying, “Just one more chapter”, then you already know the importance of pacing.
Proper use of pacing is vital in every medium. You find it in horror, as tension is built up in a scary story only to be broken by comic relief. It can be found in adventure fiction, when you see the hero holding on the edge of a cliff at the close of a chapter.
However, this doesn’t exactly answer what pacing is, and why every writer needs to practice utilizing it in order to hold the attention of the reader.
Mastering pacing is one of the essential tips for writers, and that means learning how to control the flow of action. Pacing helps to set the theme and tone of your piece and develop a connection to the subjects.
If your piece is action-packed then you’ll want the pacing to have more elements that are fast-paced. Conversely, if you are writing a character-driven, then you’ll want to play around with a slow burn pacing style.
Here are some essential tips for writers to best utilize pacing and getting readers hooked without making your content too fast-paced and losing the impact of moments or too slow and making your readers lose interest.
1. Plan Your Writing
No matter what stage of writing your piece is at, whether it’s just an outline of a complex novel or the first draft a financial article, you need to plan out the flow of information.
Gather up the elements of the piece, and evaluate how different pacing can impact them.
However, keep in mind even if you have a high action thriller piece in front of you, there needs to be a balance to the pacing.
Reading nothing but high impact action can become exhausting. Like in a horror movie, you need to have moments to let the reader breath and relax before jumping back into the action.
The goal is to find a balance to guide a reader through your work.
2. Vary the Length of Sentences and Paragraphs
One of the most important essential tips for writers is to play with the length of your sentences.
If you want to build up the tension between characters who are about to fall in love, then use longer more drawn out sentences.
Add more meaningful detail, while avoiding unnecessary words, and you’ll get similar results to the iconic couple running through a field to reach each other.
To ramp up the adrenaline, try adding short choppy sentences.
Get the point and leave it at that.
If you’re writing an action set piece, then by keeping your sentences short and concise you help the reader flow through it, building up excitement until they reach the climax.
3. Increase Detail to Slow the Pace
Have you ever watched a movie where the action was ramping up to boiling point?
Where the protagonist was dodging a hail of bullets until they reach a safe area of cover, and their femme fatale companion is leaping into outreached arms?
Then the screen goes black and all you hear is a bang. The next frame is a close up of the femme fatale’s face, the scene lingers and you see a slight smile appear on her face.
Using these essential tips for writers, you can get the same effect. Instead of having the image of a freeze-frame, a writer can elaborate upon a scene by adding the detail needed to engage the reader and focus on a scene.
By supplying a hefty amount of detail, especially against the backdrop of a fast-paced scene, you can bring the attention needed for a climactic scene to have the impact you want.
Be careful that you don’t write, just to write, however, and you can check out our article How to Get Rid of Fluff Without Writing Dry Content, for more tips.
4. Save What’s Necessary, Trim What’s Not
These essential writer tips have shown you how to control the pace of a story.
Part of the process is to revisit your content, and make sure that you’re truly getting the effect that you want.
The goal here is to get to the essence of your piece.
It’s easy to have an outline get jumbled up over the course of writing. Then on a third or fourth read-through you notice your pacing has slowed to a snail’s pace.
You may have also noticed your action beats are not detailed enough, and the language used doesn’t easily connect the scenes.
You want your writing to have enough detail so that everything you want to say is present without going overboard.
You’ll want to ask yourself if what you’ve included helps the reader to better understand the plot, build up the character, or indulge the reader?
When you’ve trimmed up your piece so that the answers to the above questions is “yes”, then you know you can put your best piece forward.
With these essential tips for writers, you can begin playing with the heartstrings of your audience and captivate them with your prose, without losing them in the detail.