Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 6, 2015

Ten Easy Pacing Tips-for Life

Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly

I'm always thinking about the pacing of the story. Am I moving too slow or too fast? Too much detail in the story slows the pacing—but too little and the reader can’t ‘see’ the scene. Action is great for speed, but too much can confuse. Dialogue can pick up the pace, but you can overdo even that if the dialogue is clunky or not really sharp. And what about characters—a cast of dozens can be difficult to manage and the reader may drop out of the story just because there’s no one person to follow.

It's easy to tell when a story is sagging. I get bored writing it and my attention wanders.

But what about a sagging life? What about a pace that is too fast or too slow? For a writer, the pace of life is as important as the pace of writing.

The pace of life means you need enough time to let your mind wander. You need enough time that your life doesn’t feel like a confused mess. If there’s too much going on in your head, too many people around, too many demands, how can you expect your stories to have room to come out and breathe?

What can you do about life’s pace? More than you think.

  • Take a breather. Go to the movies all on your own and make sure you have an hour after to sit in a park or a coffee shop and do nothing more than watch the world go by.
  • Get up an hour (or so) early. Watch the sun come up in a peaceful, quite house.
  • Send the family away for a few hours. Send them to the movies instead of you going. Use the time to take a bath or garden or just relax in the sun. Don’t even think of writing—just let your mind wander.
  • Take a break in the afternoon. Walk outside and listen to birds.Trail Duck
  • Use a sick day when you aren’t physical sick but you’re heading to mentally-not-really-with-it. This works, too, even if you’re self-employed. Use the day to stay in your sweats and do nothing more than hang out with your thoughts. Journal a little and make it a non-writing day.
  • Do something you’ve been meaning to do for months! Take a horseback riding lesson. Buy a canvas, some paints and brushes. Sign up for that cooking class. Buy that language tape. Browse the bookstore. Just do one thing that you really, really, really have wanted to do.
  • Spend an afternoon in a museum. They’re usually quiet, beautiful places and looking at art can make you think about your own art.
  • Buy yourself some lovely flowers. Spend an hour arranging them.
  • Go to the nearest park. Go in the late afternoon or evening and just watch the dogs run and the people hang out. Take a tall drink of Butterfly on Flowerssomething with you and don’t leave until the drink is done.
  • Sit in a restaurant or a café with a glass of wine, a pen and a notebook and just jot down random thoughts, or doodle on the page.

The point of all of this is that sometimes you really have to look at life’s pace, not just the story’s pace. Sometimes it’s time to do nothing more than read a good book, instead of worrying so much about writing one.

So what is your favorite goofing off thing to do?


BurningTire_finalShannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA's Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written." She is also the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire. She is currently working on her next Regency romance, Lady Chance.



22 comments on “Ten Easy Pacing Tips-for Life”

  1. This is such a great reminder, Shannon!

    I'm usually bad at this - I'm more the hamster-wheel type. But I just got back from a So. Cal vacation, and visiting all my precious friends there filled up a dry shriveled place in me.

    I rode my bicycle last night, and the old magic started to flow again, spitting out ideas.

    I so love it when that happens!

  2. I love this post. Giving me great advice to take a break, enjoy the view, sip wine and journal. Ahhhhh, I'm more relaxed already and the waves of creative energy are washing over me. Thank you.

    1. Why is it that we work so hard we need permission to stop and enjoy our lives? Glad you're doing great, spurvis500!

  3. Thanks so much, Shannon ... this is a problem for any of us who can pass for work-a-holics. Knowing when to step back and breathe. Knowing this we give our creative juices time to fill up ... if we go to the well until it is dry we get nothing but dust ... or as the expression goes ... take time to smell the flowers 🙂

  4. This is a great reminder to pace ourselves, Shannon. I find that some of my most creative moments are the moments when I am NOT sitting at my desk...ideas just pop into my head, fully formed, when I allow my mind to wander.

    1. I know how long it takes from being burnt out, LizAnn. And I much prefer pulling back before that happens. The "recovery" is much faster.

  5. Excellent post! For me it's when the voices stop. (I know I can say that to this audience and be understood.) When my characters stop talking to me it's time for a break. Gotta go now because the voices have started again. Heh heh heh.

    1. Hi James! As long as my voices don't talk to yours, I can pretend I'm fairly sane! Ha!

  6. This is very timely for me. Between the house work, the three year old, the almost five year old, the cat, parents, in-laws, volunteering, being a friend, a sister, a good neighbour, and everything else, there's not a lot of time to be a person, let alone a writer. Thanks for the reminder that it's worth making time for me.

    1. I'm sure you've heard it before, littlemissw, but if you don't take care of yourself, who will? It's surprising just how little time I can take "for me" and be refreshed to care for everybody and everything else in my life.

  7. I love validation from the universe. First, at the California Dreamin' Writers Conference, keynote speaker Sylvia Day said we should never give up reading

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