(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“And of course not all fiction need move at the same pace. Runners of the hundred yard dash do not take off in the same way runners of the marathon do.” John Gardner

“I’m very conscious of the rhythm, of the flow or the words on the page. I like to see a lot of white space on the page. When the story is really moving there’s a lot of white space.” Elmore Leonard

“Excitement is simple: excitement is a situation, a single event. It mustn’t be wrapped up in thoughts, similes, metaphors. A simile is a form of reflection, but excitement is of the moment and there is no time to reflect. Action can only be expressed by a subject, a verb, and an object, perhaps a rhythm—little else. Even an adjective slows the pace or tranquilizes the nerve.” Graham Greene

“It is [Beckett’s] wonderful rhythms, the way he weighs his words, the authority he gives to each, their measured pace, the silence he puts between them, as loving looks extend their objects into the surrounding space; it is the contrapuntal form, the reduced means, the simple clear directness of his obscurities, and the depth inside of every sentence, the graceful hurdle of every chosen obstacle, everywhere the lack of waste.” William Gass

“The chief duty of a narrative sentence is to lead to the next sentence—to keep the story going. . . . But the pace and movement depend above all on rhythm.” Ursula K. Le Guin

Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds.” Stephen King

“I believe that each story should be allowed to unfold at its own pace, and that pace is not always double time.” Stephen King

“Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed up the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings).” Stephen King

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” Elmore Leonard

“Books establish their own pace.” John Steinbeck