It’s All About The Pace (13 Ways To Change It When You Write)


Sundays are glorious. Downy duvet hugs give way to gentle lazy, picnic lunches, big smiles and enthusiastic conversations. Our children kick off their shoes and take flight, giving their town limbs over to country trees and grassy slopes. Oversized glasses filled with chilled Rosé, shared with crunchy canapés adorned with perfect toppings. Some tart, some creamy, all bursting with flavour, hand crafted and produced by the domestic goddesses who are my friends. What can I say, I choose well? Flopped down in splotchy shade with hats and loafers and gentle breezes we spend long moments staring up at the clouds that drift by; dragons, rabbits, a solitary flower, pushed gently and quietly on their way to make space for the rest of parade.

Then, we fold away the blankets, round-up the dirty dishes and find the missing fork. We comment on what a waste juice boxes are and shake our heads as we throw the half full boxes away. Unfinished. Unclaimed. Shoes are matched. Doors are slammed, seat belts are buckled, and we wave. We watch the trees pass in green blurry lines as we make our way home. Clinging to the last bit of Sunday bliss. The calm before the storm. 

Monday is coming. Suitcases line up at the door. All prompt, packed and ready. Homework. Check. Lunchbox. Check. Cricket kit. Check. Ballet bag. Check.

To bath. To bed. A moment for a soft kiss and a dreamy wish before the light goes off. And then back to Monday. The week yawns, gapes ahead, an ocean of appointments, responsibilities and commitments, like this blog post about pacing, which I am supposed to submit in a timely fashion. Isn’t that a delightfully ambiguous phrase? 

If you were playing close attention you will notice that I changed pace in this piece. I started slow and then sped up and slowed down slightly again. 

Some books are like a gentle breeze that lets you play along like a kite, others are like a hurricane that picks you up and whirls you around before flinging you into the corner of the room. Some stories dictate the pace. An action novel will be faster paced than a romance for example, but it’s up to you as the writer to speed it up and slow it down. 


How to slow it down: 
  1. Increase your sentence length. 
  2. Increase your paragraph length. 
  3. Choose longer words. 
  4. Use more description, without grinding the scene to a halt.
  5. Add more internal thought. 
  6. Use passive voice.  
How to speed it up:
  1. Use fragments. 
  2. Shorten your sentences.
  3. Shorten your paragraphs. 
  4. Simplify your word choice. 
  5. Strengthen your nouns and verbs. 
  6. Remove adverbs and unnecessary adjectives. 
  7. Use active voice. 
The scene seems to dictate its pace, but we need to know when it needs a kick in the pants or a handbrake. Reading it aloud helps with this. 

Happy pacing.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Please email news@writerswrite.co.za for more details.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Why You Need White Space When You Write (And 5 Ways To Create It)
  2. Why You Need To Write In Plain Language
  3. From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It

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