June Writing Series: How to Write Timing and Pacing in a Story

Every Friday in June, we’ll be posting a blog in our series on how to improve your writing. From how to write dialogue or conflicts to how to improve your grammar, our June Writing Series is dedicated to livening up your story so that it’s ready for self-publication.

Miss our first three posts in the June Writing Series? Read part one, part two, and part three now!

So, you have your story idea. You have your plot. You have your characters. Everything is ready for you to get to work writing. Once you set off on your writing journey, you may find yourself going too quickly. All of a sudden, before you know it, your characters are nearing the climax of the action. How did this happen? How did you get here so quickly? It’s pertinent that, when writing (especially your first novel), you give yourself room for ample pacing. Don’t know how to write things slowly, fully? Don’t worry, we’ll discuss it.

What is pacing?

Pacing is simply the speed at which the story progresses: how quickly or how slowly the story moves along through the narrative arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

How to write a well-paced story

Where to begin? It comes down to a good plot timeline. You must outline your novel fully before you can really begin. Novels are long. There’s a lot of room to fill, and if the story moves too quickly, you’ll be ending it too soon. Stories need time to flourish, to reveal all their intricacies, and to make the reader care about the characters.

Start by adding too much detail. Write everything down, fill every page, let the story flow freely and fully. Then, edit it down to a more reasonable size. Allow your plot timeline to be just that – a timeline. It’s a guide, so follow it closely enough, but embellish so that it feels full.

How to slow down a story

Here are several ways you could slow a story down:

  • Add more backstory

If you find you’re going through your story too quickly, you may need to figure out how to write more backstory. Give characters history – what were their childhoods’ like? What happened last week? Did something happen a year ago that’s applicable now? Once you figure out where and how to write a backstory, run with it.

  • Details, details, details

Details can also slow down a story’s pacing. Describe the scenery to the reader. What does the sky look like? What does the air smell like? Is it cold? By allowing the scene and characters to come to life through detail, you’ll immerse your reader deeper into the story.

  • Outline individual chapters with mini plots

Each chapter should function as a mini book. There should exposition, rising action, climax, declining action, and resolution. Outline your chapters in order to delve deep. This will add plenty of substance to your novel, and it will slow down the timeline.

  • Secondary plots/tensions

Rarely is there one story in a book. First you must decide what your main conflict is and how to write it, then you must decide up other conflicts that will fill the pages. Maybe a character is late to work and gets fired, or maybe they get into a fight with their friends. These smaller conflicts will fill the pages and slow down the pacing of the novel – all the while keeping your reader interested.

Pacing, ultimately, will make or break your novel. If you go too quickly, the story won’t seem realistic and your readers won’t have time to connect with the characters or the storyline. If you go too slowly, they’ll get bored. You have to find that happy middle ground. This is where additional readers can come in handy. If you have friends or family or colleagues who are willing to read your book for you, they’ll be able to determine if the pacing is right.

Once you figure out how to write the plot, whatever the pace, you’ll be one step closer to self-publishing.