Pacing is an important part of keeping your reader engaged in your story. So what is it? Pacing is the speed your story plot takes to move forward. If your pacing is too fast, you’ll overwhelm your readers. If your pacing is too slow, you’ll bore them enough to put your story down. So the key is to have the pacing just right. So how do we accomplish this? Let’s take a look.

  • Outline, either before or after the first draft. An important part of pacing is using a story structure, whether this is the Three Act Structure or the Fichtean Curve or the Hero’s Journey, implement a story structure to ensure constant pacing. You don’t want long stretches of slow action or barrages of fast action. Check out my previous post on story structure.
  • Use body language and narrative exposition with dialogue to speed up or slow down pacing. This is also important to convey character emotions and reactions and to show instead of tell.
  • Write (or edit) specifically for pacing between plot points. Divide the action up evenly amongst your story and word count.

So how do we speed up pacing?

  • Don’t start too early in the story. Your story should begin one step back from the inciting incident. Be wary of too much exposition in the beginning. And watch out for info-dumping, especially in the first chapter.
  • Make your protagonist act. Have her make decisions that move the plot forward. Granted, in the first half of the story, they will be reacting for the most part, but they do need to act, especially in the second half.
  • Skip forward in time. Not detailing everything your protagonist does will help the plot move along faster. Summarize and skip ahead to get to the action.

How do we slow down pacing?

  • Dialogue is a great way to slow down and show instead of tell. Remember to pair dialogue with body language and exposition. You don’t want your characters talking in a void. Show what they are doing while talking.
  • Don’t skip ahead. Just like skipping ahead speeds things up, showing more of what the protagonist is doing will help slow things down. Don’t just narrate what is happening in the story, show it in scenes.

Most importantly, be consistent with your pacing. Spread out action and apply relief evenly to keep those pages turning and readers engaged. What stories have you read that had the perfect balance of pacing? Share your favorites below and happy writing!


Back to blog

Leave a comment