Pick Up The Pace!

Freytag's Pyramid, which illustrates dramatic ...
Freytag's Pyramid the "arc" of a story. Image via Wikipedia

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is pacing my stories. Have you ever been reading a great story and getting really involved with the plot when all of a sudden, the author slows the momentum down with a bunch of description? Sometimes, you just skip over to more dialogue or action suffer through it. I find sometimes that it’s information that I need, I just wish it wasn’t there, slowing down the action.

That’s not the aspect of pacing that I have a problem with in my own writing (or at least it’s not the aspect I’m talking about today 😉 ). I’m talking about the pace of the story in general–keeping the plot moving along and not letting the story drag in parts (OK, well I am talking about the situation I just mentioned–only, while that interruption is necessary, if ill placed, what I’m referring to is not.).

I find that the longer a piece is, the harder it is to keep the story moving along at a good pace. Either it comes across too rushed, or it is too lackadaisical and has the consistency of molasses. I want to have a fluid story, but not Niagara Falls for hundreds of pages.

How do you change the pace in your work? Is it all about the verb tense to you? Is it the placement of descriptive passages as opposed to action and dialogue? Do you work through rising action, climax and falling action by chapter to keep each chapter moving? What techniques do you use to set the correct pace for a piece?

For me, I try to keep the longer descriptions before the major action, usually at the beginning of a chapter. I will describe a room the main character is in, for example, before another character enters and begins talking. I use the beginning of a chapter to set the scene (as quickly and concisely as the piece allows) before jumping back into the fray. However, this doesn’t always work, and I’m curious to see how other writers handle this issue.

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