Lessons from a writer: Pace your story
Your story should flow a certain way. Pace it. Don’t go too fast, and don’t go too slow. You’ve probably heard this before, but it means something different to every writer and every story. If you do a lot of reading, you might have observed that some stories span a couple days, while others stretch a couple years. The two-day-long story might be 100,000 words, and the two-year-long story might be 80,000 words.
How can that be? How can a story that takes place in a smaller length of time be longer? Pace and flow. There’s more to it than it sounds, and we have a group panel today with writers who have their own interpretation.
Here are a couple tips, though, to get you started. Pacing your story requires you to analyze the length of time in which your story takes place. If it’s two years, you need to figure out how to transition into different moments, perhaps months, so you can properly write it out. Writing it out is a good start, and from there, you can go back and read through. Ask yourself how much time you give a character to develop before you move on? How many characters are you building in a specific time gap? Why does that moment need to be there? You’ll likely write a lot that you don’t need in the story at all. Sometimes, writing an outline helps more than writing it out. You just need to know what works best for you.
Making the story flow has a lot to do with transitions. Pacing can be interpreted as how fast or slow the story goes in any given moment, chapter, year, etc. Making it flow requires you to look at it as a whole, as I mentioned above, and consider what needs more time. What moments require the reader’s attention more? Where does the development take place? What scenes are most important? Questions like this can help you identify areas where you should probably slow down, and from there, you can move forward.
Now, here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
What does “pace and flow” mean to you in writing?
Pace and flow means everything to my writing. As a matter of fact, that area of critique is where I get most praise for many of my stories. Pace and flow keep the reader on the page. It’s like a string that ties all the words together and keeps them from going off on their own. It’s in the background, not like a poem or a song that needs it up front. It’s subtle. You can feel the pace and flow in a piece of writing without being able to pinpoint where it is exactly. As a writer, you can feel it as you write. And you can sure as hell feel when you don’t have it. I’ve thrown away many paragraphs because of that. -Robert Alvarez
When I write my stories weather long or short, I tend to go from one event to another without too much downtime in between. It’s not something I really planned out. It’s just the way it works out. But I will leave a little down time if I find it necessary to give characters a break or need an opportunity for something that is exciting to happen. I don’t want my reader to get bored, but I understand things need to slow down once in a while, especially when it comes to a longer story like a novel. -Eric Smolinski
Pace and flow . . . To me, it’s the pace of the scene. If it’s a sad moment, the pace should be one that is slower than say a different setting. I expect the pace to pick up when erotic or counting.
Flow to me is the way I want my readers to read.
There are times I want my reader to stop and think. Other times, I want them to read nonstop. -Martin Sigournay
In writing historical fiction, the events have to unfold in a way that is believable and possible. I have read so many historical fiction books that border on fantasy. I think that’s why it is so important to me that my WIP is thoroughly researched. -Kerry Waight
Just whenever I have something to write about that is annoyingly inconsistent. I can’t force myself to write and be happy with the result. Oh, sure, I could write flatly with bits of dry humor thrown in as a default, which is a style I use in mostly reviews. However, I find writing and thinking of each paragraph as its own work is the most rewarding. -Jack Pewitt
Want to know more about this week’s panel?
Robert is a former homicide investigator. He enjoys long walks to the refrigerator and loves Texas Pecan Coffee. He is an amateur writer and shares his writing on Wattpad.
I’m a fantasy, adventure, and horror writer from Texas. I’ve been a member of Authors’ Tale for roughly a year. I have a background in design and a passion for classical art.
Martin Sigournay has been writing for about twenty-three years but only started publishing e-books back in 2014. He mainly writes fiction but has published one litany of poetry. His current published story is Wolfsbane The Mark, which has elements of fact and fiction intertwined within the story.
I am currently working on my first novel, a fantasy adventure called Accrue’s End: Pursuit. I also have a short story titled Sight Unseen that will be published in Collective Ramblings Vol 2. I’m still learning a lot about the writing process but am getting a lot of help from amazing people on Facebook.
A history major and genealogist, I have always loved to write. Married with two adult children, I have more time to call my own now. Having recently retired as a secondary school teacher, I am taking the opportunity to indulge in a lifelong dream.