Editing for Pacing and Plot Development

The pas de deux of your story is plot and pacing. You see, the plot is like the choreography, while the pacing is the rhythm, the beats per minute, if you will. They glide and pirouette across the stage together, moving in harmony to captivate the audience—your readers.

Understanding the Relationship Between Pacing and Plot Development

Every good plot has a tempo and a rhythm. Just as a heart pumps blood through our bodies, pacing propels the story’s lifeblood—the plot—from one scene to the next. The plot, in turn, shapes that tempo like a conductor leading an orchestra.

How Pacing Influences Your Plot

If your pacing is too slow, your readers may feel like they’re stuck in a long, unending lecture about the intricacies of paint drying. On the other hand, if your pacing is too fast, they might feel like they’re aboard a roller coaster with no brakes, struggling to grasp what’s happening.

How Plot Progression Influences Pacing

The progression of your plot should guide your pacing. Your pacing in a high-tension action scene should mimic that—quick and frantic. The pacing might slow in a thoughtful, introspective scene, inviting readers to sit and reflect with your characters.

Techniques for Editing Your Pacing

  1. Vary sentence structure: Using both long and short sentences can control the speed of your story.
  2. Pay attention to detail: Detailed scenes slow the pace, while brief, sparse scenes speed it up.
  3. Use dialogue and action: These can often quicken the pace, driving the plot forward.

Techniques for Refining Your Plot Development

  1. Outline your plot: This gives you a clear direction for your story.
  2. Introduce conflict: Conflict drives the plot and keeps readers engaged.
  3. Use subplots: They help to add depth to your story and develop your characters.

Common Mistakes in Pacing and Plot Development

I know a lot of writers struggle with pacing. One common mistake is letting the pacing and plot development fall out of sync—like a dancer missing a beat. Also, letting the plot development stagnate, like a dancer who’s forgotten the next move. Editing isn’t a science, what works for your book may not work for others, but there are still basic guidelines to follow.

The Perfect Dance of Pacing and Plot

When it’s done well, your plot and pacing should work together beautifully and leave your readers wanting more. Just remember, it’s a dance, not a race. Take your time, pay attention to the rhythm, and allow everything to unfold naturally.

Exercise: Analyzing Pacing and Plot Development

I’ll list some story snippets below. Choose whether the pacing works well with the plot development and, if not, how it could be improved.

  1. Adam raced down the dark alley, breathing in sharp gasps. His heart pounded like a drum in his chest. He could hear them getting closer, their footsteps echoing off the narrow walls.
  2. The garden was beautiful. Bees buzzed lazily from flower to flower, their wings glinting in the sunlight. Sarah took a deep breath, taking in the scent of roses and fresh earth.
  3. In the middle of an intense firefight, Tom thought about the pizza he had for lunch. He remembered the way the cheese had melted and the tangy taste of the tomato sauce.
Answer Key
  1. Appropriate pacing
  2. Appropriate pacing
  3. Inappropriate pacing, too slow