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  1. Rumwriter

    Rumwriter Active Member

    May 11, 2011
    Likes Received:

    Sentence length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Oct 10, 2012.

    How does sentence length affect your writing?

    I feel like every time you put a period down, the reader naturally takes a break, and has time to digest what they've read, so shorter sentences are easier to read, but because you take more breaths, nothing but short sentences slows the pace. But at the same time, they carry less information, and so they don't require as much thought, and you can pour through them much faster. Maybe they speed up the pace of a novel? I also feel like the shorter the sentence, the more powerful its words are.

    Right now I am just going through my story a lot, and am getting really interested in syntax, and how just the styling of your sentences can drastically change the pace/tone of the novel. How changing something from "do not" to "don't" has a completely different rhythm and tone, and how inflection of the reader's internal voice can be manipulated by what you write.

    Any thoughts would be helpful.
  2. cazann34

    cazann34 Active Member

    Sep 18, 2012
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    Scotland, UK
    I think you've already answered your own questions. Short sentence can control the pace and tone and can convey a sense to urgency for the reader. But can also be confusing if they don't makes sense. A sentence should have a verb and make sense or have some context with the other sentences around it. And yes, I would say that DO NOT will have more impact than DON'T in certain circumstances because it can show the word more harshly as if in a command.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    how it affects my writing is to make it an enjoyable, comfortable 'good read'... since i vary the length greatly and throughout my work...

    i'm constantly having to tell my clients and mentees to stop writing paragraph-long sentences and when using a fragment, to make sure it's making sense...
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
    Likes Received:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I like a mix. Long sentences with short ones. I also think it depends on the mood you're trying to convey. I read somewhere
    that the best sentences are the ones in which you can say without taking two breaths.
  5. thewordsmith

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Nov 18, 2009
    Likes Received:
    State of Confusion
    The length of your sentences can change the pacing, the mood, the temperature, the energy ... Pretty much everything in a scene can be controlled by the construct of your sentences. This combination of 'ingredients' can also help determine whether you've got a great story or simply show 'promise'.

    Bear in mind that a good story is something like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. If the story was all on one level - no change of pace - readers would quickly get bored with it.
  6. Intentionally Blank

    Intentionally Blank Member

    Oct 8, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, UK
    I agree with the above. I always use a mix of simple, compound and complex sentences, and of varying length. I actually had a reader tell me some of my sentences are too long, so I've focused on making my sentences shorter and more readable. I tend to like big things, and I write a lot, and sometimes have a lot to say, which is why I have big sentences. I have to pace myself sometimes.

    And yes, a novel's pace should change. But not wildly; that's difficult for the reader (I know when Chris write the first Eragon book, he went fast and then suddenly very slow {some of the critics picked up on certain "boring parts"} but I cut him some slack, 'cos he was, well... 15*). It depends on your writing style really. I like to put some action in the beginning, slow down a bit, and then gradually speed up again.

    *I guess that's a bit rich of me, considering I'm 14 myself.
  7. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Sentence length correlates fairly closely with slowing of pace. Modulating sentence length is a factor to consider when you are tuning the flow of your novel. Save the meticulous description for the slow waiting scenes between high action.

    You may feel that more periods slow down the flow, but that is rarely the case. Short choppy sentences also mean more verbs and fewer modifiers. Keep it crisp when things heat up.

    And above all, remember that a sentence should convey a single action, thought, or idea. Don't make it try to play the role of a paragraph.

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