Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pace Yourself: An Exercise to Create Rhythm in Your Writing

Like changing seasons that move elegantly into each other, a good book has an almost invisible rhythm called pacing.

Excellent pacing creates music a reader can resonate with. Pacing makes writing memorable.

An Important Tool for Your Writing
Pacing is one of the most complex and exciting tools in book writing. It’s the speed of the story, the balance of anecdotes and concepts, the ebb and flow of the writing. Pacing determines your paragraph and sentence lengths, where you put in a line of dialogue, where you muse, where you wax lyrical over a setting.

Two-Page Squint
To study how different writers deliver pacing to a reader—find a favorite book.  Open it, hold two pages up, squint at them, and see the balance of white space to text. Notice how conversation sections have more white space, description has less. So dialogue usually equals faster pace, and description (summary) equals slower pace.

Studying the Pacing in Your Own Writing
Now study the pacing in your own work.  For this week's exercise, find two favorite pages of your writing.  Read it aloud. 

Freewrite for 10 minutes on these questions:
What rhythm do you perceive?
Is the pacing fast or slow?
Where does it vary?