The Journal: Some Next-Level Stuff on Pacing

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Some Next-Level Stuff on Pacing
* As predicted
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I will fail to success. Two novels this month and four next month.” Dean Wesley Smith

“To be an author, you have to sit your gluteus maximus in a chair, somewhere, and string words together.” Reavis Wortham

Topic: Some Next-Level Stuff on Pacing

Just had a chat with a mentoring student. In part of that, I told her the main thing DWS taught me about pacing:

Hit the freakin’ return key (Enter key) now and then. Why? Because very long paragraphs slow the reader down. Whether you want them to or not.

So if you write what you think is a really tension-filled scene, and if ANY of the paragrapsh in that scene are longer than 4 or 5 lines (I’m talking lines on the page or screen, not sentences), maybe hit the Enter key a little more often.

Paragraphing fiction is not like you were taught to paragraph essays in high school or college.

If dialogue (or narrative observations) switch from one character to another, start a new paragraph.

If the POV character moves from one room to another or from the living room to the front porch or the front porch to the car, start a new paragraph. Especially if she’s fleeing something or someone.

And if you have a short, terse sentence that sums up what preceded it, consider putting it in its own paragraph.

I don’t have a separate “Pacing” class in my mentorships. That’s because pacing is something that (to my mind) is better covered in-context. So a discussion on pacing would enter into almost any of the writing Craft mentorships, early or advanced.

You can also learn pacing the way I learned it. Almost every story or novel I write, whether SF or Western or Detective/PI/Crime or Mystery is tension-filled. I don’t write Horror, but I studied (continue to study) Stephen King. I don’t write WWII novels, but I studied Jack Higgins. Because those and others are masterful writers.

If you read something by a bestselling writer that blows you away, stick a slip of paper or something in the book at that point. Then continue reading for pleasure.

But after you finish, go back and re-read with a writer’s eye those parts that blew you away. How did the writer do that?

When as a reader, sweat beads were popping out on your forehead and the writer allowed you a breather (a respite from all the tension), how did s/he do that?

And when s/he all but literally dragged you through the high-tension scenes and put those sweat beads there in the first place, how did s/he do that?

They did both with pacing. And pacing isn’t all about physical action and guns going off. It also goes to letting the reader into the POV character’s state of mind.

Most of the time, you will find long paragraphs (say 8 lines or more) in commercial fiction only when you’re being allowed to rest as a reader. Yes, there are exceptions.

I enjoy reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories, but I often find myself scanning or skipping the really long paragraphs he sometimes includes.

So when you read an exception, consider this: It’s much easier to stop reading a story in the middle of a long, tiring paragraph than it is to stop reading in a series of shorter paragraphs.

Pacing starts with sentence (or fragment) length and punctuation, it goes to word choice, and much more. And yes, it goes to “hitting the Enter Key now and then.”

Want to write a page-turner? There you go.

As predicted, Dean tossed in the towel on the challenge today (see the first item in “Of Interest”). This was a smart thing to do.

Here’s the comment I left:

Not only will you fail to success, but you’ll put pressure back in its proper perspective. (grin) That’s another thing you taught me years ago: Pressure is great to get you to the keyboard, but once you sit down, pressure needs to disappear. THAT we write is important; WHAT we write, length, etc. not so much.

These days I figure the characters’ stories are ongoing in another dimension or something even when I’m not checking in on them. (Just like the neighbors’ et al lives are going on even when we aren’t aware.)

When I write, I just open the window and record what they give me. I remain the luckiest guy on Earth that they chose me to run through the story with them, trying to keep up, writing down what they say and do.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Reset In August” at

See “Excuses” at

See “‘Social’ Mitochondria, Whispering Between Cells, Influence Health” at Possible weird story ideas.

See “A New Kind of Information-Coding Seen in the Human Brain” at A new race of super-intelligent humans? Posslbe story ideas.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 830 words

Writing of WCGN3: The New Mexico Territory (novel)

Day 1…… 1191 words. Total words to date…… 1191
Day 2…… 1206 words. Total words to date…… 2397
Day 3…… 3876 words. Total words to date…… 6273
Day 4…… 2559 words. Total words to date…… 8832

Total fiction words for July……… 27874
Total fiction words for the year………… 556253
Total nonfiction words for July… 7090
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 132880
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 689135

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 11
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 64
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Some Next-Level Stuff on Pacing”

  1. Great advice on pacing. It’s shocking how simple this is, and how few people understand it.

    After spending enough time around direct marketers and copywriters, I often feel like I don’t write long enough paragraphs. My paragraphs are lucky to get a second sentence.

    I guess that’s no sin after all. 🙂

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