Pacing is what moves your story forward quickly, then slows the action down so your readers can catch their breath and learn more about your character’s thoughts.
Think about time unfolding in your novel and the time your scenes span. Now think about how pacing differs depending on what your story needs at the moment.
For example, if you’re writing a family saga spanning several generations, its pacing will be leisurely, except for the scenes in which intense action takes place. Short stories are usually active from the start to get the reader through to the end, and adventure novels keep up a pretty quick pace. But most stories have peaks and valleys of action and breathers. You want to ratchet up the tension or suspense and then give your reader a moment to calm her racing heart.
An effective way to track your novel’s pacing is to outline it. You can easily see where the action crests and lulls take place.
Since not everyone outlines, an easier, just as effective way to help you determine if your novel’s pacing hits the peaks and valleys evenly is the ProWritingAid Pacing Check.
Here’s what a section of writing looks like when you run the Summary Report in the online editor and scroll down to the Pacing section:
As you can see, this piece of writing has a single slow section that might warrant a second look. If this scene’s purpose is to increase tension or incite some action, you wouldn’t want a slow-paced section in the middle.
Of course, each scene, chapter, or other selection of writing will have different purposes, which can mean different pacing. It’s up to you as the author to understand how the pacing in your novel moves your readers forward or keeps them immersed in a scene longer. You decide how the scene should play out.
ProWritingAid’s Pacing Check is just that—a simple check. Its purpose is for you to consider your manuscript, blog post, or other work from your readers’ eyes. Do they need forward movement to keep them hooked? Or do they need to slow down to understand things better?
Let us know in the comments below whether you prefer to outline before writing, pace-check afterwards, or both!