Pace Yourself

Have you ever been disappointed at a concert because your favorite band sounded different than the radio?

My wife and I had an awkward moment upon discovering that yahoo broadcasts live concerts on their website. She noticed Aerosmith was live and clicked in curiosity.

To be honest, I was surprised they were still playing. We determined later that they were performing something which sounded like Sweet Emotion.

Not quite the way I’d heard in my childhood.

The problem?



It’s key in music. It’s important in life. And it’s crucial to our writing.

I recently heard a well-respected author lament the lack of good pacing in modern writing, particularly among popular YA novels. They listed samples of pages of dialogue with no narrative, info dumps, and other no-no’s that either brought the story to a screeching halt or raced it ahead at the speed of light.

I’ve always thought of a story like a symphony, which is why I like the above image so much. There should be a rhythm to writing. An ebb and flow that resonates emotionally in addition to plot and word choice.

In fact, I think poor pacing is probably the number one reason I will put down a book immediately. If I don’t like the characters or the plot doesn’t grip me right away, I’ll keep reading and give the author a shot.

But if I feel like I’m in line at the voting precinct….yeah, you’re not getting read.

I recently finished The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead. I’ve been openly critical that I don’t think this series is his best work. It’s written from an omniscient point-of-view with lots of author intrusion. It’s got tons of info dumps. The plot rambles at times.

Yet one thing Lawhead hasn’t lost is his ability to conduct the story in a way that moves me along. I still feel. I can still picture each scene in my mind vividly.

Because of pacing it’s still a good book. Story will always be king. But I don’t want to wreck a good idea with bad pacing.


About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

5 comments on “Pace Yourself

  1. I guess I’m the opposite. I’ll hang around through slow pacing if the characters are engaging enough. Although sometimes I do want to bring on the spear-carrying horde yelling “get on with it!”

    But you are right. Pacing is critical. I think some writers forget that you can’t go full-tilt all the time. The symphony is a great metaphor.

    • I’m okay with slow pacing. Just not wooden pacing. When I go to vote, there’s like 800 people there directing me through the most menial of processes. If there’s a billion people in line to vote, it’s a nightmare, but if it’s empty it still seems to take forever due to all the stopgaps in place.

      Necessary for voting, but not so for a novel hehe.

  2. I am a big fan of The Slow Build in a character-driven yarn rather than a plot-driven one. My two best examples are not books but films: Silverado and Broken Trail, especially the latter. By the time we reach the climax we really care about these characters, which makes it all the more riveting. The problem with hit the ground running, which I see in a lot of novels today (as you mention, YA), is I don’t really care who’s doing the running unless it slows down enough to make me care.

  3. I agree with Will. Pacing is critical it breeds excellence. The older I get the more I realize that pacing is bliss. Thanks Will for the reminder to pace yourself and your work.

  4. This post brought to light many possibilities I had not considered. So I am glad I read your post. Your thoughts are simple to follow and seem balanced.
    I am a novice writer and not even moving as quickly as I’d like. But am co- writing. The collective thoughts give me much to consider. I tend to put a book away if it does not grab my attention in a short space of time. If it grabs my attention quickly as in the first half of the first chapter, I will be attentive to reading it. If it is loaded down with too much information right away I will most likely hesitate to pick up the book quickly. Too much information turns my mind off . I do like stories that pace the building of the climax. Keeps me reading. I like the analogy of a conducting an orchestra. Hadn’t thought if it that way. But yes – true
    I appreciate how simple and balanced your posts are. Draws my attention. Which proves my point.
    Thank you will use these concepts as I write.

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