Keep Your Readers Reading - The secrets to Pacing successfully | Elizabeth Bezant | Skillshare

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Keep Your Readers Reading - The secrets to Pacing successfully

teacher avatar Elizabeth Bezant, Writer and Writing Coach

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why it's important


    • 3.

      The secrets to Pacing


    • 4.



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About This Class

Have you ever wondered why one piece of writing has you totally enthralled, while another seems to simply plod along? Why one story has you breathlessly turning each page, while another has you thinking about what to cook for tea?

Well… in many cases it has a lot to do with the pacing. A subtle, but vital (and rarely taught) skill that can have a huge impact on all kinds of writing, everything from stories, to articles to promotional material.

Over my decades as freelance writer (who focused mainly on Personal Essays), I’ve learned a lot about pacing. To the point where I wrote a short story in Australia and had a lady in tears as she read it from a magazine while in a shopping centre on the other side of the world.

This course contains it all; everything I learned on pacing. I’ve also included a short writing project at the end to reinforce all that I’ve covered.

PLUS, I’ve also created these Pack of Prompts especially to back up all you learn in this course.

Looking for books to help you with your writing?  Check out my Amazon page.

Meet Your Teacher

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Elizabeth Bezant

Writer and Writing Coach



Hi, my name’s Elizabeth Bezant and I’m an internationally-published, freelance writer and writing coach, currently house-sitting full-time across Australia.

For the past two decades, or so, I’ve had a wonderful time inspiring and informing writers (in person, in print and online).

Over the years I’ve had a diverse range of articles, stories, columns and educational features published in countless magazines, anthologies and newspapers across the world. The ones I’m proudest of were included in: Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Living Abroad, and Grace magazines; America’s Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chocolate for the Woman’s Soul, and&n... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome: Have you ever wondered why one story can have you totally enthralled and another story can just plod along. In many cases, it has a lot to do with the Pacing, a simple, vital, and rarely taught skill, that will enable you to change the effect and the impact of your writing. Whether it be a story, an article or even business promotional work, your pacing has a huge effect on your writing. That's why I'm doing this course, so that I can teach you what I've learned about it over my couple of decades as a writer. So please feel free to enroll. There's a fun writing prompt at the end of this course, and I would love to see what you write, So why not click the button and I'll see you on the other side? 2. Why it's important: Well, here we are with Pacing, and I guess the first question is, what is Pacing? So when you think about it, the last thing a reader really wants from a story or piece of writing is for it to be boring and monotome. But neither do they want it to be so exciting and non-stop that they don't have the chance to catch their breath. What they want is something in between, a good balance of both. After all, too much pace and the reader is overwhelmed and tired before they reach the end of chapter one. Well, too little pace and they'll fall asleep because it's not interesting. Both of which means that when they go off to get themselves a cuppa the chances of them coming back and picking up your book is highly limited. Pacing in a story is a bit like a walk in the countryside. Too many hills and excitement maybe tiring, while a walk that's too flat and uneventful causes boredom. Either way, you fall asleep at the wrong time and think twice about going back on that walk another day . So Pacing is about finding a good balance between the two extremes and keeping the reader intrigued and engaged. For example, did you know that stories are made up of four styles of writing? There's action, dialogue, narrative and description. Action is what's happening in the story. Dialogue is what's being said. Narrative is the kind of thing a narrator would say, and description, well, that really speaks for itself. It's the part of the writing that tells you what colour socks your hero is wearing and what the church organ sounds like, and the kind of look the villain's mother gives him when he doesn't get home in time for tea and so on. The important thing to know about these styles of writing, though, is that action and dialogue increase the pace of your story. This is why young adult novels include a lot of action and dialogue. It's what keeps the story moving, that and the fact that nothing is included that isn't essential or that might distract the reader. Description and narrative, on the other hand, slow the story. They paint the bigger picture, they expand the actual storyline and, in most cases, don't add any energy to the story. Jane Austen is a great example of description and narrative. Her stories are complete and compelling, but they can be slow moving because they're all, or nearly all, description and narrative . To make this point clearer, you could pop down to your local library, and compare some of today's modern young adult novels with some of the old classic stories. I'm sure it won't take long before you see a difference in the styles. Alternatively, if your story feels overly slow and heavy, try writing it using only, or primarily, action and dialogue. You'll soon see a difference. In fact, one of the tips I give many writers is, if they feel their story is dragging than simply put some speech in it. It will instantly lift the pace and interest. Plus, you'll immediately recognize which bits of your story are not essential, giving you the option of leaving them out, or rewriting, or even putting them somewhere better suited. After all, there's no better way to slow down an action scene than to suddenly start describing the landscape or explaining why your lead detective is wearing his lucky yellow socks. It's a simple rule, but again, once you aware of it, you'll not only notice it in what you read, but also you'll see changes in what you write. If you'd like an exercise on this and something to try it out more, why not photocopy a few pages of some of your favorite novels - pick a selection of action events in stories and some of the slower spots. Then take four different color highlighter pens, one each for action, dialogue, description and narrative. Next, simply go through the photocopies using the highlighters to emphasize where the authors used the different styles of writing. When you've been through a few pages, you may be surprised, it could even give you insights not only into how your favorite authors write, but also into what appeals to you for reading. Of course., I'm not saying copy how your writers write, rather consider what you discover as research and reflect on how it might help you. But it's definitely something worth looking into. 3. The secrets to Pacing: Well, I guess the first question you ask after learning what is Pace. Is, how do you Pace? And let's face it, different kinds of writing required different pacing. Obviously, an action thriller needs a lot of excitement, but a how-to article or an autobiography? need less. Not that this means the latter needs less attention paid to it or should be less interesting. It's the storyline that just needs to be different. All writing needs Pacing regardless of the topic, age of the reader, or style of the writing . It's simply a case of learning how much your writing needs, and when and how to speed it up and slow it down. The real skill is being able to alter the pace without the reader seeing what you're doing and realizing how you're manipulating their emotions. You want them to simply be part of the story and feel the adrenaline rush of being chased by a man-singeing dragon or the relaxation as the heroine lounges by the pool waiting for her hero. You don't want them to wonder how they feel, what the character feels, only to know that they feel what they feel. Here's some common ways to adjust the pace of your story. 1) Vary your sentence length, because this will vary the readers breathing pace. Do you remember when you were learning to read? I know it's a long time back for most of us, and certainly for me, but, if you were like me, you were taught to take a breath whenever you came to a full stop in a sentence and pause when you came to a comma. Most readers were taught that so well that they now do this without thinking. How does that relate to Pacing in a story? you might ask. Well, think about when you're excited when you're being chased by that man-singeing dragon or about to jump out of a airplane. How is your breathing? Unless you're truly are a superhero, you'll probably find that your breathing fast short breaths. Bearing in mind the previous piece of information, what do you think is the easiest way to make your reader breathe more quickly or to feel like they're running and jumping with him? Of course, it's to write short sentences with full stops close together. Alternatively, when you want the reader to relax and feel like they're lounging next to the pool in Paradise or reclining on the flight to Mars encourage them to take longer breaths by writing longer sentences with full stops further apart. It's all simple really. Short sentences speed up the pace of the story, while long sentences slow it down. In fact, in the heat of any moment, you can even use incomplete sentences and exclamations to increase your reader's heart rate . However, if you're one of those writers who struggles with incomplete sentences and cringes then you'll be pleased to know there are ways around writing short sentences and still have them complete. My suggestion, in fact, will be to write full sentences that are relatively short, but just include other kinds of punctuation in them so that the reader has reason to take small breaths between the full stops. This way there's still increased, staccato breathing but not fragment sentences. Just for the record whilst I talk about long and short sentences, for the average reader , a long sentence starts at around 30 words. Second option, be selective about your content and plot. This is a relatively obvious one when it comes to Pacing your story. After all, which would you find more breathtaking and exciting, a teenager sneaking past armed guards guided only by the light of a full moon or a middle-aged mother sitting at home painting her nails? Both might have their place in a story, but they would be very different paces and different places. An important part of being a good writer is being aware of your storyline and how to tell it. There is, after all, a skill to telling a good story, just like there is to telling a good joke and getting the punchline right and timed well . Third on the list is to be aware of your word choices. Does the section your writing need short, soft, gentle words, or ones that are direct and forthright. Look in any Thesaraus, even the one on your computer, and it won't take long before you realize how many words in the English language mean the same, or very similar things. The great thing is, as writers, that we get to choose which of those words we want to use. The challenge, though, is picking the right one and not always falling back on our favorites. Have you ever noticed, for example, how it's possible to switch one word in a sentence numerous times with an array of different words all with same meanings, or similar meetings, and for the sentence to basically stay the same? But it's also possible for each of those words that you changed to change the meaning by a huge amount. The choice is yours always take. For example, a word like knock. could be swapped with tap, nudge, punch, thump, smash, bash, batter even, they all mean 'to knock', but the strength of each word is different. One could be a playful knock between children at a birthday party, while another could be a life-threatening knock between two gun-wielding gangsters. And the choice as to which one is used is entirely yours. Therefore, pick a word that suits your plot, your reader and the pace you're creating. Which is to say, once you've progressed past your first draft, don't always use the first word that comes to mind, no matter how tempting or easy it is. And on that topic, if you're want to constantly expand your vocabulary and word choices, I'd recommend spending some of your spare time, doing crosswords and playing other word games. There was some excellent card games, for example, that are fun and challenging but will also help you expand your word choices. So there you have it, Pacing, a vital part of writing that's often overlooked but easily learned, researched and played with. Have fun. 4. Project: Well, there you go. What did you learn? Have you thought of any ways you could adjust your writing to increase its impact. If you enjoyed the course, I would love a review. If you'd like to know more about me, of course, there is the bio on this website. And now for the course project. What I'm going to ask you to do is write 200 words or less that covers everything that this course has taught you or has shown you. The prompt is to write about losing something and then finding it. Simple as that, losing something and then finding it. It could be losing your keys whilst you're running late for work and then finding them. It could be losing a child in a playground and then finding them. Or it could be something about saving the world. The choice is yours. All it has to do is be 200 words or less, cover the items that I've covered in this course and be about losing and finding. So you've got the anxiety and really well let it go. That's it. I would love to see what you've written, so please post it on this website when you're finished. Thank you.