How to STOP Rushing Your Scenes and Find the RIGHT Pacing for Your Story

by - October 18, 2019


Have you ever read back through your writing and said to yourself, "Whoa! Slow down!" or "Wow, this is like really, really slow and boring...ugh."

Yep, I'm sure we've all been in those places. But sometimes, we don't give enough details in our own stories, and other times, we give way too many.

So how do we balance this?

I'm glad you asked, because today, that's exactly what we're going to talk about!

Let's go!


A HUGE WAY TO STOP RUSHING YOUR SCENE

It shouldn't be surprising to find out that a huge way to stop rushing your scene is to add to it. Make it longer.

For example, as I was editing my novelette, Healed by the Storm, I found that this section felt really rushed. So I decided to copy the section and compare it with the new section.

Here is what I came up with.

BEFORE:



"Thank you for breakfast, Rosa. I'm sorry, but I'm just not hungry right now. I'm going to take a walk after feeding Grace. I need to sort some things out."
"If you're sure you'll be all right," Rosa said, looking up at her with concern.
“I’m sure,” Miriam replied. As soon as she had finished feeding Grace, she put on her shawl and stepped outside. The fresh, cool of the coming winter met her. Miriam closed the door behind her and leaned against it for a moment. She drew a deep breath and smiled, letting the wind blow against her face and blow away the tears. Then she started down the road and pulled the pins from her head, letting her long, wavy, brown hair flow behind her.


AFTER (Note: not up to date with the current story):

            "Thank you for breakfast, Rosa. I'm sorry, but I'm just not hungry right now. I'm going to take a walk after feeding Grace. I need to sort some things out."
"If you're sure you'll be all right," Rosa said, looking up at her with concern.
“I’m sure,” Miriam replied. Going back into her bedroom, she lifted Grace from her crib and kissed her cheek tenderly. As soon as she had finished feeding the baby, she put her back into the crib and rocked it until Grace was asleep. Miriam wrapped the shawl around her shoulders and quietly closed the bedroom door behind her.
As soon as she opened the front door, the fresh, cool breeze of the coming winter met her. Miriam closed the door behind her and leaned against it for a moment. She drew a deep breath and smiled, letting the wind blow against her face and blow away the tears that threatened to escape her eyes. Starting down the road, she pulled the pins from her head, letting her long, wavy, brown hair flow behind her.


One thing you probably noticed is that the second snippet is a bit longer. Needless to say, if you add in more details, you are going to lengthen your work. You are going to stretch your writing and slow down the pacing. For some of us, this is exciting because it makes us put more words on the page. For others, this might be frustrating if you have to stick to a certain word limit. (But that is only for submissions and contests.)


3 TIPS TO MAINTAINING GOOD PACING IN YOUR STORY

There are three tips that I've discovered to help me maintain good pacing in my story.


  1. Write the first draftforget the pacing. Just put the words on the paper and get a good "skeleton." DO NOT EDIT as you write because it will slow your progress down. (Check out more on that here and here.)
  2. When you've finished writing the first draft, take a break. After some time (probably 2 weeks to 3 months or so for a novel—but every writer is different) read through your writing and find the rushed scenes. Write down the page number, or something that will let you know where the rushed scenes are.
  3. When you've found the rushed scene, study it and try to figure out why it's so rushed. Is your character missing a step? (In my example, I didn’t describe Miriam picking Grace up and kissing her in the first snippet. That extra sentence helped with the pacing of my story.) Do your readers understand this section? If not, describe it in more detail (especially if it’s important to the story). Have you described a character’s appearance yet?
Be careful of how many details you add to your story so it does not go at a snail’s pace. Too many details are annoying and will draw readers away. Some details are unnecessary in the first place, so why add them?


HOW DO I MAKE SURE I'VE FOUND THE RIGHT PACING?

So after reading all of those tips, how are you supposed to know for sure if you've found the right pacing and have enough details/descriptions (yet not too many)?

You might hate this response, but here goes.

Ask people to read your writing.

I knew some of you would hate it.

Yes, I know. It's scary. Asking people to read your writing is terrifying sometimes. Getting their feedback seems even worse.

But trust me. Getting feedback from others is SO IMPORTANT AND HELPFUL.

Is it discouraging? To be completely honest, sometimes it is. I know that in Healed by the Storm, there were several problems that needed to be addressed. It felt overwhelming to read all of the comments and suggestions. I didn't want to write the story anymore. I didn't want to listen to the suggestions.

But I read the comments and suggestions and thought through them. And you know what? My story turned out to be SO MUCH BETTER because of them!

Yes, I had to add two and a half scenes into the story. It seemed overwhelming, especially since I had a weekly deadline with my writing lessons. But in the end, it was worth it.

Here's another time that was discouraging and overwhelming: I wrote an article for The Rebelution and submitted it. It was a really good article about how we could glorify God with our sports.

But there was a problem. I play on a Christian team, and not everybody has a Christian team.

The editor responded that she loved the article, but was wondering if I could tweak it a bit. However, it ended up needing almost an entire rewrite! It was frustrating. It was hard.

But it was SO worth it!! I love the new article much more than the original one! (The article was published on TheReb, and you can read it here!)

Of course, I've had very good experiences with feedback. Some people LOVED my writingwhile others didn't as much.

And you know what? That's totally okay! Remember that no story will please everyone, so if someone doesn’t like your story, ask them why. Maybe it’s just not their “type of story,” and that’s okay. Maybe they'll give you some really useful feedback. You never know!


So there you go! Those are my tips to stop rushing your scenes and find the RIGHT pacing for your story!


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what about you?
Do your scenes feel rushed? Do you struggle with finding the right pacing? Which of these tips was the most helpful for you?

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