Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Set the Pace

41 Comments

Image courtesy of praisephilly.com

Image courtesy of praisephilly.com

My first job in high school was a skate guard at a roller rink.  I loved to roller skate, so it was a dream job. Management gave me a whistle and I hit the rink. I was the skate police. I blew my whistle when a skater went too fast or cut someone off. If a skater was too slow, a blow of my whistle increased their pace. I got paid to skate and listen to good music. Life was good.

When a slow song played, some skaters left the floor. Others paired up for “couples only.” But as soon as a fast upbeat song blared through the speakers, the couples broke free and sped away. The music set the pace for the skaters the same way as a writer’s pacing is the tempo that determines how fast or slow a story reads.

I’ve learned there’s no rule to define the perfect pace. The books I read have taught me the most about pacing. Too slow and I get bored. I don’t have time for a leisurely stroll. I want action right away, but not throughout the entire book. I need some time to breathe and digest the story.

In order to keep my readers engaged and not skim the “boring parts”, my story must be full of conflict and tension. I use short sentences with strong punchy verbs. I avoid long and involved paragraphs full of description by resisting the urge to explain. Instead, I create a balance of action, dialogue and narration throughout the story. My characters are doing things that relate to the plot as much as possible. They’re not sitting around and talking or contemplating.

These days, I don’t need a whistle. Each scene in my story requires a different pace and it’s my job to make the proper determination. Obviously every scene won’t be a car accident, a diagnosis of a fatal illness or attack by a black bear. But even the less action-oriented scenes can be loaded with emotion. After all, I remember the first time a boy asked me to slow skate, my hands were wet with sweat and my heart skipped a couple of beats.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

41 thoughts on “Set the Pace

  1. You brought back fond memories, talking about roller skating. I agree one hundred percent with your analogy and focus for writing. Can’t wait to read one of your stories soon! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jolyse! I have such good memories of my roller skating days. I can’t wait to read one of your books…you’re getting closer! Have a great weekend and thank you again for the terrific gift card! 🙂

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  2. What a great job, Jill! I could NOT roller skate for the life of me. I tried but the skate police kept whistling at me to get up off the floor. 🙂 How wonderful that you are feeling good about setting the pace in your writing. It is so important to find that balance. Great post! 🙂

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  3. I love this analogy, Jill. Pacing is a difficult skill to master; many writers tend to err on one side or the other, and usually (in my editorial experience) it’s by showing off their description finesse. When your readers are “skimming the boring parts, ” you probably need to do some revising.

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    • Thanks, Candace! Last weekend I was reading one of my earlier projects and I wanted to skip most of it. 🙂 It’s amazing to see the improvement. A lot of writing and studying, sure pays off. As an editor, I’m sure you’ve seen many of your clients grow with your help. Enjoy your weekend!

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  4. Nice analogy Jill! The skating rink took me back to elementary school/junior high. Thankfully, working on the pacing of my writing doesn’t require skating skills.

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    • Thanks, Phillip! Long before I ever worked at the roller rink, I was there every Friday or Saturday night. I loved it. Lucky for both of us our writing doesn’t require skating skills; I haven’t been on roller skates in years! Have a great weekend!

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  5. Good philosophy on writing and one to which subscribe. I only went roller skating once, and I’m sure you would have been blowing your whistle at me. I prefer the ice rink because there’s less friction upon falling.

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    • Once? I had you pegged as a roller derby guy, Eric. I loved ice skating as well, but I thought a fall on the ice hurt worse. Hey, congratulations again on your album! I’m sure it will be a big success. Enjoy your weekend!

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  6. Thanks for this entry. I had forgotten about the excitement of Friday night skates and the mirror ball sparkling above us as we circled the rink. Nice connection to how we read and write, too.

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    • I’m so happy I could bring back a good memory for you. It was exciting. I had a hard time focusing in class on Friday, anticipating that first spin around the rink. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your memory. Have a great weekend!

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  7. Keep writing, Jill…you do it so well!

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  8. Good observation Jill. I hope my writing doesn’t mirror my skating – one-paced and desperately holding on 🙂

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  9. LOL! No Roy, your writing certainly isn’t “one-paced”. I’m afraid my skating abilities aren’t what they used to be, but the good memories remain. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  10. Okay Skate Police, you would have had me arrested and thrown out of the rink, simply because I would have been flat on the floor:-) Wonderful writing advice. I’ve haven’t thought of “pace” in my writing at all. I’m going to piggy back on Roy’s comment and say I hope that I don’t have a one paced style. I love the connection of the roller skating to writing:-)

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    • LOL! It sounds as though I would have had to call a paramedic for you. 🙂 I do have some memories of “arrests” I made. They usually involved time-out on the bench for 10 minutes. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope it helps with your pacing while writing. It’s a great topic to study. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  11. Finding enjoyment and balance in everything is what its all about. Great post.

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  12. Great visual, Jill! And I’m jealous – I’m sure as a roller cop you could do a mean backward skate. I never mastered that feat. Oh sure – I could do the the quick reverse turn. But then, there’d I’d be – facing the wrong way with no momentum to keep me moving. Sad.

    I don’t know Roy, but he cracked me up with another good visual that I could relate to!

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    • Thanks, Shel! Actually I was able to skate backward, it was a job requirement, in order to keep an eye on those behind you. LOL! Yes, the quick reverse turn was difficult to master. Unfortunately, after two back surgeries, my skating days are behind me. Have a great weekend!

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  13. I also loved the analogy and thought about roller skating days. And I’m glad you wrote about pacing, because I was just talking to a writer friend of mine about this subject. We were both a bit worried about the pace of our WiPs!

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Recently I was reading one of my early NaNoWriMo projects and was shocked by the slow pace. Of course, I wrote that story a couple of years ago, I knew nothing about pacing. 🙂

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  14. A great post Jill. Your beautiful posts always touch those aspects of life which matter to all of us in very special ways. I always look forward to reading these lovely posts. This post also brings memories of happy moments of life in school. I can imagine what a versatile scatter you must have been and how much fun it must have been to be a scate guard. My field of dominance was track and field. Nobody could beat me at the 100 meters dash. Looking forward to the next lovely post. Take care Jill and have a lovely weekend.

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    • What a nice comment, Samina. Thank you very much! Working as a skate guard was a dream job for a high school student who loved to roller skate. Wow, it sounds like you were quite the runner. Thanks for sharing that tidbit about yourself. I’m curious if you still run? As I mentioned in another comment, I had to hang up my skates. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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      • Thanks Jill. I do not run now, it got over in college. 100meters dash and relay were my specialities, I would a relay starter. Not any more. I am a pretty good walker though, 5 miles a day is no problem for me and love to cycle. But running no way. I honor people who have played sports because they have a different outlook on life, they are positive and spirited and I always knew you are one of them. take care Jill and thanks again for making me remember my beautiful time in high school.

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  15. What a great post, Jill! I love the analogy between writing and skating (and what a wonderful job to have had!) 😀

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  16. What a great post, Jill–everything you need to know about writing you can learn from roller skating–I love it. (Plus, I always wanted to be one of the skating carhops…well, I wanted to be one until I watched my friend take a tumble with a full tray of food and drinks. And she was a really GOOD skater.)

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  17. Ohhh…the memories! Roller rinks are a think of the past, aren’t they? I haven’t seen one in years. When I was a young adult, I was a waitress in a nightclub, and it was also a blast. I worked in the same type of fun environment, socializing with customers and enjoying the music. Difference was, I was making money instead of spending it.

    I like your connection to pacing. As a writer, it can be challenging to keep it moving without the “boring parts.” Wonderful post, as always.

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  18. Thanks, Gwen! Actually there’s a roller skating rink in my area, but your comment made me wonder how many still remain. I found this website http://www.seskate.com, it lists all of the rinks in the U.S. Maybe there’s one near you….your girls would love it!

    I’m sure you have a lot of fun stories from your days working in a nightclub. Like my job at the rink, it probably didn’t feel like you were really working.

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  19. What a fun job! My first job was data entry…definitely not nearly as exciting. 😉 I love your analogy of skating to writing, and it’s so true. I think pacing is one of the most important things in a book. Even if the story idea is solid and the characters are well-developed, if the pace is too slow it’s not going to hold my interest, and if it’s too fast, then I feel rushed, like I’m not really getting to know the characters at all.

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  20. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know what you mean. I read a book recently that left me out of breath by the end because it was so rushed.

    Yes, working as a skate guard was the best job I had while in high school. From there, I went on to the Pentagon…certainly not as exciting. 🙂

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  21. I just love the skating analogy xx

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  22. That is a great tip particularly to those new
    to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Appreciate your
    sharing this one. A must read post!

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  23. Pacing is such a subjective thing. I’ve had people tell me the same scene was too fast and too slow. For me, it’s several reads before I can surmise what is off and where pacing needs to be altered. 🙂

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