PACING MATTERS






 

I’m on holiday, after five weeks of writing to complete High Ground, interspersed with the demands of Christmas. So, yesterday I finally enjoyed my first day of downhill skiing this year. I haven’t even been out on my cross-countries yet, and it’s January. Why? Because I let my writing suck-up the majority of my energy each day, leaving only drips and drops for the other aspects of my life. Too often, I told myself, “I’ll do it when the book is finished.”

A writer, developing a plot line, uses pacing to provide contrast. Descriptive narrative gives the reader time to slow down, sink into the character, scenery, or emotions. It encourages them to invest. A fast-paced action scene stimulates the reader, increases heartbeat, hurries breathing. Anticipation grows, as the reader’s mind rushes ahead seeking solutions. If action is missing, descriptive narrative becomes a bore. If we don’t slow the pace, occasionally, action becomes an unpleasant rush. Fast/slow, speedy/sedate contrasting rates are co-dependents, needing each other to create the best effect.

Just as a skier shortens her fall line to increase speed, or carves long, lazy curves down the slope to slow her pace, a writer uses sentence length to pace her story.  Short and choppy speeds the action, encourages the reader to race for the bottom. Multi clause sentences force the reader to snowplow, decreasing speed in order to absorb detail.

Pacing is just as important to plotting my life. Writing gives me purpose. For marked times of the year I make it a priority. But if I let the long hours at the keyboard consume my energy to the point where, fitting a cross-country ski into my day sounds just too hard, then my writing becomes a detriment to living fully.

I realized this when I came off the ski slope invigorated but tired late afternoon. I crashed into a heavy sleep at 7 pm and slept for twelve hours straight. Reviewing the situation this morning, I conclude pacing and the balance it creates in my life has been nonexistent these past 3 weeks. I’ve allowed hours of sitting, immersed in my storyline, to prey on the time and energy needed to do the things that keep me healthy. A quick review shows me I haven’t moved through the stretches of my Tai Chi, enjoyed a walk or done my floor exercises in weeks. No wonder a day of skiing squeezed me drier than the needles on a pine tree and left me just as prickly. When I reach a state of exhaustion, where I become an irritant to anyone who comes close, I know it’s time to change my pacing.

A new year snuck up on me, bringing the excitement of new projects and change. As I write my stories and my life for 2014, I know I will focus on moderation and balance – you can’t go wrong when you include these elements in all you do. I draw from the contrasts. I anticipate the unexpected. I combat them with built in de-stressors, ‘me time’ and a positive attitude. In this way I keep my readers content, by finding my ideal pace.

 

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