Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pacing - the red haired stepchild

Maggie talks about pacing

Everyone knows a song has lyrics, a melody, and a beat. Books have characters, plots, and pacing, which is the beat, or rhythm of your story. In the early days of my writing journey, I thought I knew a lot about pacing, but I had no appreciation for this fine point. Pacing is the art of how you string the words together that makes the story speed up or slow down.

To harken back to the music world, a music CD has an upbeat song track, then a song with a slower tempo. Or if you're more familiar with the world of dance, a fast dance and then a slow dance. That choreography is repeated throughout the album/CD.

Ancient City Writers working on pacing

This past Saturday, I spoke at the Ancient City Writers chapter of the Florida Writers Association in St. Augustine. I used examples of good pacing from top authors, broke their technique down into usable information nuggets, and also gave instruction on how to fix the pacing in your own story.
More writers working on pacing

After that, we had fun! I like the hands-on aspect of instruction, so here's what we did. Two names were solicitied from the about 35 attendees - Amy and Max. I asked for random professions and this is what came forward: nurse, phone technician, artist, and burglar. For character traits, the group came up with this list: aggressive, shy, twitchy eye, pushing glasses up the nose, and stutterer. The setting was a PTA Open House. The room broke into small groups and worked cooperatively for about ten minutes.
Lunch at Kingfish Grill with Dianne Ell,
Judy Weber, and Nancy Quatrano;
Jack's reflection is in the glass 

We had fabulous results. Lots of blended narrative and dialogue. Fast pacing. Slow pacing. Pacing that bridged between a fast opening and a slower finish. There are lots of talented writers in St. Augustine! When my workshop was over, I chatted with several very fired-up writers. People really seemed to have a renewed respect for pacing.

Afterwards we lunched at Kingfish Grill right on the water. What a lovely spot. I loved my Mediterranean Salad with grilled shrimp. From there, I visited Vilano Beach which was right across the bridge. What a fitting finale to a great day.

Vilano Beach in July
Thanks  to group member Jack Owen who generously shared his pictures with me!
A sunny day at the beach


  1. Maggie--do you hear me crying? I want to go to that beach! And to the workshop! Oh, thank you for giving us this view into the life of a workshop leader and her pupils. It looks great. Celia

  2. Hi Celia,

    Thanks for stopping in to say hello. The beach was wonderful, and it was so nice to have a break from my routine. The getaway part of the weekend went much too fast!


  3. Hi Maggie,

    I am very sensitive to the pacing of a book. A slow pacing can have me sigh in frustration and stop reading. Two years ago I attended Mary Buckham's workshop on pacing. I am sure the writers at the Florida Writers Association in St. Augustine must have greatly benefit from your workshop.

  4. Maggie, what a day! Thanks for sharing the pictures. The beach, sigh...
    I loved what you did at the workshop. It sounds like it you had a bunch of fun. I would love to attend one of your workshops.



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