Monday, March 23, 2015


Ana muses on the length of sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, and your hero’s member.

Did I wake you up? It is Monday morning, after all.

Short sentences convey the need for immediate reaction. “Run!” “Stop or I’ll shoot.” “Go ahead. Make my day.” “How was your day, dear?”

Short sentences create white space on the page, which is visually inviting to readers.
They also mimic real life. In real life, people interrupt each other all the time. (I’m guilty of finishing my husband’s sentences. I usually know what he’s going to say. He hates when I do it, so I try to do it in my head. Like a game, though I don’t keep score.)

From Self-editing for Fiction Writers:  The simple, purely mechanical change of paragraphing more frequently can make your writing much more engaging. Paragraphing frequently can also all tension to a scene…Whether it’s because sentences tend to grow shorter as the speakers become more upset, or simply because readers’ eyes move down the page more quickly, frequent paragraphing gives dialogue snap and momentum.

Brief scenes also create tension. Things are moving quickly, reader. Don’t stop now or you’ll miss something.

Book chapters seem to be getting shorter, too. I read or heard somewhere that smart authors have short chapters so readers can finish a chapter on their lunch break. I thought that was good advice and switched my chapter lengths from 5000 words to 2500 words max.


Paula posted about how she trimmed her entire story by cutting repeated words and information. She's one smart writer.

James Patterson said, "If you think of the story that you tell that's your favorite personal story, or funny story, it doesn't have flashy sentences. It doesn't have too much detail. It just tells the story. That isn't, for what ever reason, the way most people write books. But it seemed to me that there was no reason it couldn't be the way at least one person writes books. I said: "I'm going to stop writing the parts that people skim."

I tend to repeat by rephrasing. I seem to be in love with saying basically the same thing four different ways. I eventually pick the best one and cut the other three, but that’s time consuming, and my goal this year is to write faster.

The caveat of the post is a big one (pun intended). TRUST THE READER. A reader will remember details and plot arc. She doesn’t need to be reminded in each of the first six chapters why the hero has a broken heart.

Oh, and don’t preface (or follow) dialogue by describing the emotion conveyed by the dialogue. 


  1. Some very good points, Ana. The skill of writing good dialogue is making it sound realistic, but without all the 'ums', 'ers' and incomplete phrases and sentences that usually appear in 'real-life' speech!
    Love Patterson's comment about leaving out the parts people skim!

  2. A most interesting and informative post, Ana. This would be excellent for new writers. Even a gentle reminder for experienced ones like me.

  3. Great pointers, Ana. But I do wish you'd know... :)