Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Editing Frenzy: Prompt fourteen: sentence length

If you want to kill your reader, the easiest way is to keep the same length through the entire novel. The monotony is sure to make them sleep. I talk from experience because I was reading a book that had a good story and good writing but I kept on dosing of every time I was reading it. Turned out that I wasn't the only one. It was made of very long sentences for an entire chapter and that's what totally bored me out of my mind.

Having only long sentences makes your writing hard to read, especially if you are explaining something really important or if one of your character is having a monologue. Generally long sentence works well for description or if the character can't make up their mind. Longer sentences allow more details and more chances for focus.

Having only short sentences makes your writing sound choppy or interrupted. Like you want to change topic all the time. It can get confusing. It also denotes a lack of complex ideas in the story or a lack complex mind for your character. Short sentences work well for intense action and to accelerate the path.

To fix short sentences, try adding more details or use coordinating conjunctions (but, or, and....)
To fix long sentences remove the coordinating conjunctions, separate two ideas or two descriptions, or separate the action from the description. I was reading this book where the action kept on being interrupted by description of the place and I ended up not knowing where we were and what was going on.

Keep in mind that you don't need to kill all short sentences and all long sentences but rather to keep some of each while trying to maintain a sentences length average between 15 and 21 words. We are aiming for variety.

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