Ultimately, pacing is up to the author. Some appreciate a faster-paced plotline to get from point A to point B, whereas others like to take a slower approach and look around and explore the area between A and B.
Pacing is an art. It's a very individual choice, but it's also something that can alienate a lot of readers if rushed or dragged out too slowly. One type of story was highlighted in the comments as a common misstep in pacing:
Chapter 1: Michael and OG meet. There are sparks
Chapter 2: Michael and OG fall in love
Chapter 3: Michael and OG have sex and announce their undying love for one another
Note: Chapter 2 & 3 are often switched.
Personally, I can't read stories with that quick of a relationship development. It's too fast and contrived. In fact, it's so fast that rather than earning the "OMG how sweet!" response that the author often wants, my response is "OMG, this is troubling!" Talk to any domestic violence counselor and they'll probably tell you the same thing.
Which brings me to what this segment is about - accurately conveying what you want to convey through the pacing of the story. In the example I gave, I showed how improperly pacing a story can lead the reader to draw conclusions that are dramatically different than what the author intended. Now, the same is true for when the story is paced too slow and the author feels the need to add in extra events in order to keep the reader from getting bored. For instance, the following is an example of when an author might commit the error of not trusting in his/her own ability to hold the reader's attention by throwing in a mess of cumbersome and unnecessary action:
Chapter 1: OG and Michael meet
Chapter 2: OG and Michael start to flirt
Chapter 4: OG and Michael start to have a conflict of some sort
Chapters 5-15: Random supporting characters who are added just to keep things interesting, conveniently appear. OG has a tryst with 1+ and Michael has trysts with 1+. Author makes it clear that OG and Michael still desire each other
Chapters 15-25: Rinse and repeat 5-15.
Chapter 26: Michael and OG start to get back together
Now, perhaps spanning that over years might make it less...extreme soap opera-esque, then a few months. However, regardless of how it plays out, that is much more like a soap opera than reality. The author is likely to find that the actions in chapters 5-25 leave just as many (if not more) readers feeling disheartened by the leads than interested in them actually being together. Whereas the author started with a believable pace, he/she became so set on dragging out the courtship that he/she introduced irrelevant characters in an effort to accomplish this feat. This can be done well (usually by introducing necessary characters), but when dragged too slowly and with too much detail, it can get to the point where the reader can't fathom the OG and Michael realistically reuniting for a healthy relationship.
SO the question is: How does one avoid such pitfalls?
- As mentioned in a previous segment, plan. Outline your chapters, so that you can focus on building suspense for one or two significant moments, rather than overloading the reader with tons of forced drama. Be sure to include the timeline as well as the major events in the chapter.
- Don't rush things. If you take the water out of the kettle too soon, has it reached boiling temperature? No. Similarly, if you have your couple solidify too soon, the vast majority of readers won't believe they're ready.
- Don't just tell, SHOW. This may not be the first one on the list, but it is the one that I notice more authors than not, forget. When you show what is happening, you engage your readers in a blow-by-blow account, thus heightening the tension of the scene. This is great for creating the sense of drama without actually overwhelming a reader with pointless actions. At the same time, if you do this throughout every chapter, you'll exhaust your readers. Find your balance, remembering to never solely stick with one.
- Switch up your sentence structure. For instance, if I write each sentence using flowery, elitist, articulate language with half a dozen commas, I convey one message. When I write brief and concise sentences, I'm sending a different message. The rule of thumb is:
short sentences = reads as faster paced
long sentences = read as slower paced.
- You know that saying "variety is the spice of life"? The same is true about your chapters. Having tons of action each chapter gets....old. Vary between having conversation-dense chapters and thought-dense chapters. Consider changing character perspectives.