Keep it going: How to edit for pacing

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Did you ever watch a film—good plot, conflict, acting—and felt unsatisfied at the end?  Often this vague dissatisfaction is due to uneven pacing in the story.  Making a film involves multiple people—actors, director, editor—who can all implement changes in your original script.  An actor can profess that they just can’t say those lines or demand a larger presence.  A director may shift scenes or shorten them.  The editor may piece together long or short clips.

As a writer you have no control over these changes to your story.  The best thing you can do is to edit your story so that the pacing remains constant.  Pacing is an integral and subtle way to keep control of the story and make it more difficult for others to make large changes to your script.

How can you check for pacing?

  1. Try to keep each scene to five pages or fewer.  This precludes long narrative, slow action, or interminable monologues.
  2. Make certain that each and every scene moves the story forward.  If you are explaining background you need to take a look at how to either weave it in bits into various scenes or…just leave it out.
  3. Check that your plot points are there and occur within the timing limits of structure.  Don’t leave any out or the story will drag or confuse.
  4. Keep it tight.  Double check the entire story for minor as well as major excesses. If  the story works without a line, cut it.  Keep it moving.
  5. Read aloud to a voice recorder and then…listen.  Listen with the script in front of you so you can mark places where just on hearing—without any visual cues—the story seems to lag or jump.

All of these editing processes will ultimately help your story.  And with tight pacing—neither lags nor jumps—your story will grab your reader/audience and keep them in the story.

One thought on “Keep it going: How to edit for pacing

  1. Good advice. I also recommend using Christopher Vogler’s Writer’s Journey to craft a plot that creates a satisfying story. He uses movies everyone knows to lay down a framework of stages that really speaks to me. When i read it, I finally understood. Janet


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