Friday, March 25, 2011


by Winnie Griggs

Pacing is the rhythm and momentum, the ebb and flow of your story. It’s the speed your reader moves through the story as well as the speed with which your story events unfold. Pacing is not measured in actions or events, but in the emotional investment your reader has in the unfolding of your story.

Well-orchestrated pacing strikes a balance between heart-pounding action scenes and the more thoughtful, cerebral scenes. That’s right - even though we’ve all heard that the faster the pace the better, that today’s reader has a shorter attention span, a TV-and-internet-induced thirst for rapid bursts of information and entertainment, that doesn’t mean that you need or even want breakneck, adrenaline-pumping action in every scene.

In fact, there are certain scenes, even in the quickest paced stories, that have an enormous emotional payout for your reader and these are scenes you definitely do NOT want to hurry through, that you want to make sure you give depth and texture and sensory richness to.

In a romance these would include, among others:

• The First meeting/inciting incident
• The First Kiss
• The first love scene (if your book includes one)
• The realization of being in love (for each the hero and the heroine)
• The revelation of the major backstory/motivating event/’big’ secret that informs your hero/heroine
• The black moment
• The happily ever after resolution

These are the scenes that readers anticipate and look forward to. They are the heart and soul of your book, the emotional lynchpins that, when done well, can propel a book to ‘keeper shelf’ status. Make certain you take the time to bathe your reader in whatever emotions are applicable - jubilation, hope, hedonistic sizzle, despair, poignancy, rage, a deep and abiding commitment, etc.

Since these are the scenes your reader looks forward to, she won’t mind you slowing the pace a bit here. In fact, be careful not to rush through them, or worse yet, transition over them all together. However, this doesn’t mean you want to drag things out unbearably. Take the time to focus on the emotions your characters are feeling, and the details that enhance these emotions, as well as those you want your reader to feel (not always the same), and then move on. To do this you will need to draw on every tool at your disposal, including craft, instinct, finesse, and your writer’s “inner ear”.

As for the mechanics, there are a number of ways to control the pacing of your scenes and ultimately your story.

1. You can control the pace through the inclusion or exclusion of detail. Passages that are lush with imagery and description slow the reader down as she tries to visualize and appreciate the picture you are painting. On the other hand, in a high voltage action scene, your detail should be stark and delivered in staccato bursts.

2. Another method is through the use of dialog and the way in which that dialog is delivered. The energy and emotion of the conversation will seep into the reader, subconsciously adding to the tension or calmness of the pace.

3. And then, of course, there is the manipulation of story time itself. To move the story along, compress all those days and weeks when nothing of significance happens into a short transition. Conversely, take your big payoff scenes, such as the ones we discussed above, and really focus in on them.
Just remember, pacing is all about piquing and holding your reader’s interest, about making it a keen ‘page turning’ experience for her. As the author, it’s your job to manipulate pace and story time in order to keep the reader engaged.
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of The Proper Wife.
By The Proper Wife HERE


  1. Hi Winnie, I remember chatting with you when you had a book about hand bell chiors coming out (still having read it but do own it)
    As a reader we dont realise how much effort goes into writing a book til we read these shorts of posts Thanks for writing books for us and I would love to go into the drawer.

  2. Got the coffee pot set for 4 a.m.

    Another helpful post. Thanks.

    Now to implement.


  3. Very helpful article. Thanks!

  4. Amazing post!!!

    And I'd love to be in the drawing...

  5. Welcome to Seekerville, Winnie! Great tips on how to slow down the pace. I especially love using all 5 senses (or as many as I can) during the kissing scenes! LOLOL

  6. Oh yeah! Your list of places to linger feel quite natural but I've never put a 'finger' on it like this. Thank you Winnie!

    Happy Friday, everyone. Sweet Friday!

  7. Thanks, Winnie, this is a very helpful post! I tend to get caught up in the "it has to have gunfire in every scene" mode. It's good to remember there are some scenes where you want the reader to linger with the characters a moment and cherish what's happening.


  8. Winnie, I love changing the pacing to stop the reader in their tracks and I'm so glad you chatted about it today.

    To me it takes the reader on a moment-to-moment ride, like the anticipation of a roller coaster that has blind curves, like Space Mountain in Disney. It can be an effective tool in writing because it's kind of how life hands us things.

    With a wallop.

    And sometimes a wimper.

    Maybe a sigh...

    Lovely post on intuitive writing, kid. Thank you so very much.

    Let's see, GH and RITA call breakfast:

    Oh, shoot, there's not a one o' youse that can swallow a bite, but since I'M RAVENOUS, I've got a Texas-sized meal of eggs, steak, ham, sausage, grits and gravy for my beautiful and talented Southern friends, cheese, fruit, bagels, Texas toast (which in Texas they just call...well... toast, I guess)

    Dig in! If nothing else happens in your life today, at least you started the day with a good meal!


  9. Winnie,
    thanks for the post. I so agree.

    I love that reminder to slow the pace. I think there's been a push to do the rapid fire writing while neglecting the fact that not every page should leave a reader breathless because of speed. Some stories leave av eader more breathless when the story has had time to percolate.


    Tina Pinson

  10. Welcome to Seekerville, Winnie! Excellent post -- pacing is about SO MUCH MORE than how fast can you race to THE END.


  12. Welcome to Seekerville, Winnie! Always good to see you.

    Thanks for the excellent post on effective pacing. The phrase that popped to mind--Milk it. :-) Slow down and pull everything you can out of those characters. And hopefully the reader too.

    Thanks for breakfast, Ruthy!


  13. Hi Winnie and welcome to Seekerville, Great post and love the idea of lingering on those special scenes. Thanks for reminding us.

    Love the southern fare Ruthy and the new photo. upstate NY gorgeous.

    Thanks for the coffee Helen. yum

  14. Hmm... breakfast and coffee are taken care of... how about cold cut sandwich fixins for lunch?

    Welcome to Seekerville, Winnie! Excellent post! I need to print a copy of that list for while I'm writing/editing.

    Like Helen said... time to implement :p.

    Now to get the girls ready for the bus...

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  15. I love all the Love Inspired books. Love the cover of this book. I don't know who decides on the cover for the books, but they do a great job.

  16. Welcome to Seekerville, Winnie -- it's great to have you here. And I LOVE your cover for your book -- VERY NICE!!

    There might be some people who think I wouldn't like this post today because I tend toward "rapid fie" in my writing and even had one of my prayer partners and best friends ask me after she read A Passion Most Pure, "Julie, why can't you write a sweet, simple love story without all that tension??" Because let's face it, roller-coasters are not for everyone, and frankly I don't like them at all ... uh, at theme parks, that is. But in a book??? Oh, yeah ... :)

    That said, the rapid-fire high points would not be fully appreciated or enjoyed if one didn't pace them with slower, more languid scenes, just like the weeeeeeeee factor of skiing down a snowy slope would not be near as sweet if one didn't get to enjoy the slow and scenic ride up on the ski lift. Like sweet and sour or salty and sweet ... they enhance each other.

    And, of course, scenes I NEVER hurry through even IF I DO write them rapid fire are ... LOVE SCENES!!!




  17. You guys know this is the day Rita calls go out, don't you? Not that I'm nervous or anything.

    I'm going to see Beauty and the Beast tonight with my hubby and daughters!!! I'm so excited! And if I don't get a call from the Rita people, I can't be too sad, because I have Beauty and the Beast to look forward to!!! Yay!!! God is good.

    Winnie, thanks for this great post on pacing. Pacing and creating suspense are not always easy, but then, what about writing a novel IS easy?

  18. Winnie,

    Thanks for this post! That's about the best way I've ever heard pacing described.

    I agree wholeheartedly - the love scenes must be drawn out to savor!

    Good luck everyone today on the GH and Rita announcements!! (Thank goodness I don't have a stake in today so I can relax and join in with others' celebrations!)

    I'd love a chance to win your book, Winnie!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  19. P.S. But I just saw Pam Hillman's name over on a blog and it says she's a GH Finalist in the Historical Category!

    Congrats, Pam!! WOO-HOO!

    Hope it's true.


  20. Sorry, that was Best Inspirational (not Historical).

    Even better!!

  21. I didn't realize the GH calls are going out today! I can't wait to celebrate with the finalists! And I'm not in competition myself with the Seekers because I'm entered in the YA category, so I'll be completely happy when some of you final!!! :-)

  22. Winnie,
    Great info today. Always love when you join us in Seekerville!

    Even with suspense, those really intense moments can be drawn out. So there's action, action, action...and when the reader's neck is tingling, wondering what will happen next, the hook at the end of the scene or chapter can be elongated to keep the reader on the edge of her seat.

  23. a great posting...please put my name in the hat for this fabulous giveaway...thanks :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  24. Thanks for the post! And you're completely right - as I read your list of places to slow down the writing, I realized that they're the same places where I slow down my reading. Good advice!

    I've got to get back to my packing - 14 working days until the moving van guys will be loading our stuff, packed or not!

    I'll be thinking of all of you waiting for calls....

  25. I forgot - please put my name in for the drawing!


  26. Hi Winnie:

    I just loved your “The Heart’s Song”. Here is what I wrote on my Blog review:

    "He didn't recognize the tune, but the sound wrapped around him like a homemade quilt on a chilly night, warm and comforting."
    from “The Heart’s Song” by Winnie Griggs

    “The above quote from "The Heart's Song" perfectly describes how I felt while reading this wonderful book. On every page something happens that will make you feel good, feel inspired and feel a tug on your heartstrings! The cast is large. There are more than a dozen characters who you will care about and who will inspire you. "The Heart's Song" is a surprising book.”

    I saw “The Heart’s Song” as an ideal example of how to reward the reader for reading on every page. This is important for pacing. Pacing does not mean a lessening of reader pleasure or interest. The forward movement of the story may slow but the delight and wonder in reading the story can increase.

    I see the novel as a symphony. You would not expect a symphony to start with a bang and get louder and faster and more exciting for 50 minutes in a row. In a symphony the slow parts can actually be the most enjoyable part of the music as they fit in the valleys between the crescendos.

    I think the Seekers would be interested in knowing that as a historical author you did not want to write a Contemporary like “The Heart’s Song” but the editor asked you to do it. How did that work out by the way? Will you write any more Contemporaries?

    I can’t praise “The Heart’s Song” enough. It is a great example of 'rewarding the reader' the most times per page.


    Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  27. Winnie, WELCOME BACK!!!

    (me singing Welcome Back Kotter song to you!)

    Excellent post AGAIN.

    Thank you.

    Tell us more about what you're working on!

  28. You know, Winnie, I think I'm almost clear in fast pace. But slowing things down, lingering over special moments....I need to work on that.

    Great post.

  29. RUTHY!!!!!!!!!!

    I was so at peace with you in the nun-like turtle neck, then did NOT think you could get any cuter than you and the puppy. Then we got you and the sassy short hair.

    But now, waaaaay classy girl. Nice picture.

    We probably need a post of your morphing over the years.

    Not of me......I just get older.

  30. Yes, Susan, I got the call at 8:28 AM CT! I was so excited.

    I'm at work, so my time is limited to congratulate everyone I'm seeing, but RWA is posting finalists every so often on the RWA website.

    And of course, I've already posted it on fb and Twitter! lol

  31. Winnie, great description of pacing!

    Pam, Congratulations!!!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  32. Thanks for being with us, Winnie! Great post! You know, I've read books that have a pace that just wears me out. I think there is such a thing as too much action. Too many cliff hangers (a disaster at the end of every scene). It gets tiring and lacks variety.

  33. RUTHY! I read your comment, and wondered who that was who brought Ruthy Food. LOL!! I had to zoom in to see. :)

    Love the new photo!

  34. Oh my - I wrote until the wee hours this morning so overslept. I just booted up my computer to find you folks busily chatting (and breakfasting) without me. I see a little bit of cheese and fruit left - let me grab a bite while I read over all of your lovely/lively posts

  35. Ausjenny - Hi! Ah yes, The Heart's Song will forever be known as my handbell book. Had lots of fun writing that one - my one foray (so far) into writing contemporaries.

    Helen - thoughtful of you to get the coffee ready. And glad you enjoyed the post

    Pammer - you're quite welcome!

  36. Virginia - Thanks!

    Camy - Hi girl! And yes, kissing scenes, especially that all important first kiss, should be really lush with detail. Because we want to experience it with the heroine

    Debra - glad this resonated with you and Happy Friday right back atcha!

  37. Yay, Pam!!! Congrats on finaling in the Golden Heart! You go, girl!


    Ruthie: Love the new picture.


  39. Thanks for the helpful post, Winnie and welcome to Seekerville! I'm never quite sure when to slow down the pace.

  40. Thanks so much! Appreciate this info. :)

  41. Kristin, Ruth, Tina - you're all right, lot's of posts on the topic of pacing focus on how to keep things moving quickly without giving a nod to the need for some lusher, richer passages

    Ruth - marvelous breakfast offerings - really hit the spot!

  42. Glynna,Janet, Sandra, CarolM, Julie - Thanks for the warm welcome! Always fun to visit here. And the food is yummy too :)

    Patsy - Glad you're a Love Inspired fan. And yes, the art department does a GREAT job on the covers

  43. Melanie - RITA call day is always exciting and nerve-wracking. Several of my friends made the cut and I'm super jazzed for them. And a trip to see Beauty and the Beast sounds like a fab evening!

    Susan - thanks for your kind words and glad you enjoyed the post

  44. YAY MARYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!
    Mary is a Rita finalist for Doctor in Petticoats! Yay!!!!!!!!!
    Congrats, Mary! :-)

  45. A very helpful post, Winnie. Just read that Pam has been nominated for a Golden Heart and Mary for a Rita. So happy for you both.

  46. Thanks for the reminder to change the pace. All I keep hearing is to speed things up and keep things tense. But like Julie said, too much of a good thing can be too much.

    Please enter me in your drawing.
    teaching by writing at yahoo dot com

    Congratulations to all the GH and Rita finalists!

  47. Lately I find myself reading every word in the first third or half of a book, only to be whizzing through the dialogue by the time I hit the last quarter of the book. Don't know if the pacing falters or I feel pressed for time. On occasion, I know I'm aware of a feeling sometimes that the story could have been cut by at least 50 pages. Other times, it's definitely me.

  48. Debby - Glad to be here! And yes, you nailed it on the pacing issue - but that shows in your writing as well

    Jan - glad my list meshed with your experience!

    Vince - Bless you! I may quote that review on my website (if you don't mind, that is). As for how it worked out - my editor really liked that book and has invited me to write more contemporaries

  49. Tina - Wow, what a lovely singing voice you have - thanks for the seranande. As for what else I'm working on - I'll have two more books out this year, both set in the same 'world' as The Proper Wife and my earlier book The Christmas Journey. Second Chance Family comes out in July, and Home For Thanksgiving will be a novella in the Once Upon A Thanksgiving anthology that comes out in October. Thanks for asking!

  50. Hi, Winnie! Love your name. :D Thanks for the great post. I'd love for my name to be in the drawing!

    lr dot mullin at live dot com


  51. Mary!!!!!! Congrats on your RITA nomination - I'm so jazzed for you girl.

    Pam - congratulations on your GH nod as well.

    Good luck to both of you!

  52. Love this post, Winnie. Those are scenes that need to be savored, lingered over, not rushed through like a sword fight.

    Got to remember that!

  53. Hi Winnie:

    I just downloaded “A Proper Wife” for my Kindle. I have to wait a month longer to get the Kindle version rather than the eHarlequin. But the Kindle is so much easier on my eyes than the Sony.

    You have a great first line to “A Proper Wife”:

    "He needed a wife and he needed one soon."

    It does sound a little like Jane Austen and that man 'being in want of a wife'! I’d say you get right to the point. Talk about pace! Is there any doubt this is a romance? : )

    I’d love for you to quote my review or any part of it. The address is:

    I’d also like to see a Contemporary with the same town and cast of characters. There are enough characters for a lot of books.

    BTW: Everyone who loves a Bell Choir should read “The Heart’s Song”.


  54. Roofie! I just saw your new pic.

    Did a double-take!

    That's OUR Roofie???

    Made me want to run over and muss your hair just a bit.


  55. Congrats to Mary and all the Seeker friends who finalled in the Rita or the Golden Heart.

    I'm still in shock mode. Seems like the day has just flown by.

  56. Eva - Thanks!

    Missy - Thanks for the welcome. I think you nailed it on the variety angle - moving the story at one pace, whether quick or leisurely, is equivalent to reading it in a monotone

  57. Congratulations Mary!

    Lots to celebrate today!

  58. Woohoo! Congrats Mary and Pam on finaling in the RITA and GH! I think everyone here deserves to win an award...including Winnie ;-)

    XOXO~ Renee

  59. Congrats Pam & Mary:

    BTW: Do any Seekers now have a RITA?
    I really don’t know.


  60. Hi Ruth:

    Your new photo looks like one of those you look at and say, “…and I knew her when…”

    How will you surprise us next?


  61. Mary:

    Congratulations on ANOTHER lofty achievement.


  62. Oh my stars, what a day, what a day.....


    Pammers finaling in GH.


    And a bunch of friends of Seekerville finaling!!!!!

    So proud of every one and if I list 'em I'll leave someone out and hurt their feelings, but we're just over-the-top proud o' youse all.


    Oh, then....

    From the midwest came the cry of someone who HASN'T GOT A CLUE HOW TO USE HER CELL PHONE.....

    I MEAN, REALLY?????


    And our Mary got the call!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    Oh happy dancing for all of you in upstate NY where it's cold, snowy and did I mention cold???

    And I don't care because this is just a wonderful, wonderful thing!

    Congrats, dear friends!!!!!!

    I'm hoisting a diet Snapple in your honor.


  63. Great post, Winnie! It's printing now and going into my Seekerville notebook.
    Congrats to Pam and Mary! Well done!

  64. Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the pic.

    Whaddya think? Really?

    There's another one that's cute, too. I need some high resolution ones, my home-made digital one wasn't quite doing it for Harlequin so....

    I thought it came out fine. I wanted one that looked like me. Not me ten years ago, not me at 30, and not me 'old'...

    Just me.

    I'm glad you guys noticed in ALL THE EXCITEMENT!!!!!

  65. Pam and Mary, Congrats to both of you!!!

    Will start the coffee early tomorrow.

  66. I do love a good historical. I also have one question. How about first touch. (I don't know if that's separate in a lot of books but it is special in my manuscripts.)

    Great pic, Ruthy!!


  67. At the risk of repeating...let me add my own kudos to Pam and Mary. How very exciting!

    Now, just wait! You mean that classy lady is Ruthy? Very nice.

    This is a great post, and it has already been starred.

    Also, I'd love to win the book.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  68. Another fun day at Seekerville!! I would love to read your book...sounds great!

  69. Thanks for the helpful tips on pacing, Winnie, and I love the cover of your historical book! ~ Thanks for sharing here in Seekerville today.
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

    P.S. @Ruthy - WOW!! Lovely new photo!!! :)

  70. Thanks Winnie for all the great tips on when to keep the story face pace and when to slow it down...awesome:)
    I would love to be entered in the drawing for your book!

    lornafaith at gmail dot com

  71. Cara Lynn, Karen, Pat - you're quite welcome - glad you found the info helpful

    Christine - sounds like you already have a good handle on the pacing issue

    PatriciaW - LOL we all have those times when "it's definitely me"

  72. Linnette - Winnie is a family name, it was my father's mother's name (I'm sorta partial to it as well )

    Pam - Bingo! Savored is a good word for it.

  73. Vince - LOL I'll have to hire you to be my pr person :). Thanks so much for purchasing The Proper Wife - would love to hear what you think of it after you read it. And FYI I am looking into writing other books set in Tippanyville

  74. Jillian - Thanks! I feel very honored to have a post go in your notebook along with posts from thee very talented folks here at Seekerville.

    Walt - good question! and depending on the story, the first touch can absolutely be one of those take time to savor the emotion moments

  75. This was a very informative article. Thank you for this. Pace seems to be difficult for me. I love fast pace as much as the next reader, but I also agree slow is good when well-written. Good to know it's okay.

  76. This is definately food for thought! Thanks for sharing, now back to the drawing board!

  77. i love Love inspired books thanks

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com