Books are a bit like amusement park rides.
They come in all shapes and sizes and even levels of thrill, with enough variation that there are few who don’t enjoy any sort of ride at all. But there is one element that all rides must have if they’re to succeed: an expectation of pace.
Fast rides fly. Slow rides meander. But it’s rare that a ride will catapult between high and low speeds until the rider begs to be removed. Why? Well, the intense change in pacing would leave most riders bewildered—and likely a bit nauseated, too.
The same goes for stories that lack consistent pacing. So let’s avoid bewildering, and perhaps even nauseating, our readers, shall we? Buckle up, writers. We’re about to go for a ride!
What constitutes strong pacing?
Let’s begin by dispelling a common writing myth: the speed of a story’s pace actually matters very little in comparison to the consistency of the pace itself. Just like amusement park rides, stories of different paces will appeal to different readers. And that’s a-okay!
So let’s worry less about whether our stories are too slow or too fast-paced, and instead focus on whether certain parts of our stories fall into one of those categories.
The best way to create consistent pacing is not to fix pacing issues in revisions (though we’ll certainly have to do that from time to time, too), but rather to understand the foundations of strong pacing so we can build it into our stories from the start.
Strong pacing, believe it or not, begins with structure. No matter which plot structure (or lack thereof) a book utilizes, most stories do hit a few key beats that ring true with readers: See More . . .