You’ve finished writing down your story; the rough draft is done! You go back and look things over, pleased with yourself, when you suddenly realize something’s not quite right. You look more closely, maybe even compare it with another story. You come to realize what’s been nagging at you: The pace of your story is too fast! The pace of your story is too slow!
Whichever one it is, you start to worry, and beat yourself up about it, trying to think how this problem can be resolved; or can it be? Is the whole story ruined? Is it too late to adjust the pace?
No! It’s not too late. This is your first draft. There are bound to be all sorts of problems in a rough draft, and that’s okay; nobody’s first draft is perfect. You can edit and restructure the pace. Don’t get mad at yourself and think your story stinks just because the pace is too fast or too slow: it’s the job of the “editing stage” to fix that.
Okay, so now you feel reassured that you can resolve this predicament during the edits, but maybe your next thought is: What pace is best for my story?
Well, ultimately only you can decide. But to help you make up your mind, how about we look over the pros and cons for long pace and short pace stories:
- Long pace has the danger of drawing things out to the point where the reader gets bored, tired of the plot and character situation.
- If the book looks very long, page-length wise, it might intimidate some.
- Short pace has the danger of being too fast to the point where detail and character development is lacking or non-existent.
- If the book looks too short, some might misjudge and think it’s a simple story, or that they won’t get their money’s worth.
- Long pace has time for slow moments:
- They add character depth.
- –Give readers time to love or hate the protagonist or antagonist.
- –It’s more true to life. Our lives aren’t a constant rush of adventure (at least most of us, hehe), so slow moments are more relatable, which makes them a good tool to use if you’re looking to write a scene readers will relate to.
- Short pace is great for fast moments:
- -It’s exciting; an attention grabber!
- –Keeps the readers turning pages.
- –Is great for action, as it makes the story intense.
Both long pace and short pace have other tools to offer; whether they become pros or cons for your story depends on how you use them:
“Telling scenes”: In short pace you might be tempted to rush through some scenes. It feels like a summary when you read it, which is good if you need to rush through that part in order to get to a better scene. Some scenes should be rushed through if they don’t add any story value. Just keep in mind there is little to no emotional depth when you use them; readers most likely won’t feel connected to that particular scene if it is only “told” to them.
“Showing scenes”: In long pace, because there is more time, scenes can be described in greater detail. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. It will either add further depth, and get readers to care about what’s happening, or draw out boring scenes that aren’t necessary.
Okay, so perhaps by now you’ve decided what overall pace you want your story to have; however, you find yourself hung up on the cons and dangers of the particular pace you chose. How can you face some of these cons and dangerous pitfalls?
If you choose long pace, your concern might be that your story will end up too drawn out and boring for your readers. Even if the overall story and plot is fantastic and worthwhile, you’re concerned some readers might give up to soon and never finish the story. What can you do?
- Even a long pace story, if done right, can be exciting: You can use short subplots that cover several chapters at a time while the main plot continues on. This breaks up the story into more feasible pieces for readers to digest, and they come away from each subplot with a feeling that the story is moving forward.
If you choose short pace, your concern might be that the story will lack and that readers won’t emotionally connect with your characters as you had hoped. Readers might decide they’re not interested in the story anymore if they feel no connection with the plot or any of the characters. What can you do?
- A short pace story can have depth, as long as you allow a moment now and then for the story to rest and breathe. You can do this through:
- A tender scene between characters
- A chat that lets us learn a little more about a character’s personality, fears, hobbies, likes and dislikes, which will make them more relatable to us.
- A flashback of happier times. Yes, there are bound to be flashbacks of terrible, horrible times, but it adds diversity and a nice breather to add some that are positive; it can help connect us to the character’s situation by seeing how they long for those happy moments to come back—even if it’s their impossible wish.
So whether you choose long pace or short pace there are good things about each, and the cons can be worked around. You have many options; be creative! And keep in touch by joining the mailing list Fellowship of the Book—1 letter a month, no spam ever!
~E. Rawls, The Elusive Dreamer