Friday, October 19, 2012

Ask Elnora--About Pacing? Lenora Worth

It's Third Friday Writing Day! And today, Elnora is pacing back and forth, wondering how to explain ... well ... pacing. Pacing is like traffic. Sometimes we have to go slow and sometimes we have to go fast. (Okay, I mostly go fast, but that's another subject.) I'm no expert, but I've learned a few things about pacing over the years. Of course, I can't remember any of those things right now. So I found one of my favorite writing books and I'm going to quote some of the tips. The book is "The Writer's Book of Wisdom", 101 Rules for Mastering Your Craft, by Steven Taylor Goldsberry. Rule number 57 is a good one: "Command attention immediately." This means you need to start your story in a good place. You don't need to describe the countryside and the lake and the nice morning coffee before you dive right into the conflict in your story. Start with the conflict. In my upcoming "The Life of Riley" my heroine (Riley) finds out some good news on the same day her ex-husband returns. She really doesn't want to see him or let him find out her news. Conflict. Oh, guess what? Rule number 58 is "Design your opening page for maximum impact." This means if you need action, start with action. Action has to happen even in a sweet little love story. If your heroine is sitting on the porch staring at the peaceful lake, you either need a body to wash up at her feet or you need her to receive disturbing news or you need the house to be on fire. Action, goal, motivation and conflict. (See Debra Dixon's "Goal, Motivation, and Conflict", another great how-to book.) Wait, Rule number 59 says to "start where the story gets interesting." Body in the lake? Or ex-husband at the door? You have lots of options here. Skipping to Rule number 66, we find this little nugget--"Allow the process of discovery to happen naturally." This means you don't have to feed a lot of background information and backstory to the reader in the first pages. Sprinkle this throughout your story. And rule number 79 will help with pacing, too. It says "Avoid commentary; let readers make their own deductions." Good idea. Our readers are very smart. They like to put two and two together when it comes to boy meeting girl. And finally, a quote from a pretty good bard: "An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told." Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare!
The pacing journey is long and challenging, but pacing your novel in a way that causes readers to keep reading is key to writing a good book. Let's discuss pacing? Love it, hate it, ignore it? What are some of your suggestions, Lovely Love Inspired Ladies?


  1. Great info today. In suspense, the pacing has to be fast, and then speed up even faster.

    Which is what I love about suspense!

  2. I agree!! Fast-paced action with a few quiet moments for falling in love!

  3. Hi Elnorina:

    Your posts always seem to capture my interest.

    Good pacing: the story unfolds at a rate which maximizes the reading enjoyment for that given story. Bad pacing: the story unfolds at a rate that lessens the reading enjoyment (as when half the story unfolds at the ninety percent mark while the other half of the story happens in the last chapter (last 10%) as the author hurries to finish the story within her maximum word limit.)

    Usually a reader only notices pacing when it is off.

    Pacing is independent of timing, conflict, suspense, and tension. A fierce five-page sword fight may not move the story at all. You can increase tension by raising the stakes without moving the story along. Indeed, slowing the pace can increase the tension as when they use ‘slow motion’ in the movies or when it takes many pages for the last ten seconds on the time bomb clock to count down. A comedian needs good timing to give his punch lines on individual jokes and pacing to move his performance from start to finish at a rate that pleases the audience.

    As in life also in writing: there are times to rush and times to stop and smell the roses. The wise writer knows when these times are.

    At least, this is how I see things. :)


  4. Thank you Vince. I should let you teach this lesson, I think~!

  5. Lenora, that was awesome! Thanks for such a great post!

  6. You are welcome. We love to talk writing!!


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