The first part of this article defined pace and gave some tips on how to speed up or slow down the pace of your story. Here are some more tips.

To Slow Pace

When the pace is too slow, add some action. Create more scenes, introduce greater conflict, and trim down the descriptions, character’s inner thoughts, and details of the setting. If you find yourself resistant to editing out these latter three items, consider cutting them up into smaller sections and interspersing them throughout the story more. Don’t lump a great swaths of details or descriptions into one section. We don’t need to know your protagonist has gray hair and a roadmap face; is 6’ 2” tall with long, gangly leg; constantly wears a blue jean jacket; has a crooked, engaging smile; and sports a nest of crow’s feet at the corner of his eyes. Show us the scale of the mountain in the beginning your character is going to climb, but give us specific scenery the way she sees it, a little at a time, as she climbs.

Sometimes, however, the problem with slow pace isn’t about long passages; it’s about your choice of words. Overuse of passive, boring, and to-be verbs slow down the reader because they aren’t exciting or engaging. Avoid using too many

  • Passive words, such as appeared, seemed, or became

  • Boring words, such as looked, walked, or turned

  • To-be words, such as is, was, were, be, or been.

Check out my previous article, “Choose Your Words Carefully” (Jan. 2012) for ideas on how to spice up your word choices.

Boring passages slow pace as much as boring words. Read through any sections that seem to lag and see if you can add more tension, more energy into them. You can do this by raising questions, creating unease, or providing active descriptions that entice the reader. Ask yourself if you are providing information that makes your reader want to see what is going to happen next.

Pace too fast

Too much action without other elements can make the pace too fast.

Slow it down by adding details of the scenery or character. Interject the character’s thoughts, reactions, or physical sensations. Bring in another character for interaction between the two.

Pace too even

Yes, not only do you have to worry about the pace being too fast or too slow, you also don’t want it to be too even. Variety is the spice of life in writing. Your sentences, paragraphs, and chapters need to be of varying lengths. The same is true for the dramatic highs and lows in your story. They shouldn’t be evenly paced throughout – mix it up, move things around, keep your readers guessing what is going to happen next.

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