The structure of your novel is just as important as your plot or character development. Having strong sentence structure can help you craft a novel that readers won’t want to put down. I feel like I’ve been told a thousand times not to start too many sentences in a row with the same word. However, equally necessary, is to vary the length of your sentences. This is a good tip every writer can adopt without sacrificing their writing style.
3 Reasons Varying Sentence Length Will Improve Your Novel
1. Varying Sentence Length Will Make Your Writing More Memorable
When all of your sentences are roughly the same length, they are not unique and therefore less likely to grab your reader’s attention. Even if they are well written and unlike any other writer’s writing too many consistently short sentences or consistently long sentences won’t be as powerful as sentences that vary in length.
2. Varying Sentence Length Will Help You Control the Pace of Your Novel
If you want your pace to be slower, write longer sentences. Generally, longer sentences cause the reader to slow down thus slowing down the pace of the story. (See also White Space to learn how short sentences can slow down the pace of a story). If you want to quicken the pace of the story, maybe during an action scene, quicker sentences will help you achieve that pace. Just the opposite of long sentences, short ones are quick to read enabling the reader to get through it quicker. Thus you can control the pace of the story by controlling how long it takes a reader to read.
3. Varying Sentence Length Can be Used to Increase or Decrease Suspense and Emotion
Just as long sentence slow the pace of the story, they also tend to decrease suspense or emotion. On the other hand, short sentences will increase suspense and emotion. Let’s look at an example of a longer sentence that isn’t as suspenseful as it could be:
Shivers ran up my spine as I realized the motionless man wasn’t sleeping but was dead.
Realizing someone is dead is a good place to add suspense. Making this long sentence a few short sentences will produce that suspense:
Shivers ran up my spine. The motionless man wasn’t sleeping. He was dead.
See the difference? The same technique can be used with emotion.
Lacking emotion: The doctors placed her firstborn son in her arms and he immediately began to coo causing the new mother to smile with joy.
Infused with emotion: The doctors placed the baby in her arms. Her firstborn. Her son. The baby immediately began to coo. The new mother smiled. With joy.
Whether you use sentence length for one or two or all three of the reasons above, I hope this tip improves your writing and adds more depth to your novel.
If you use sentence length for another reason please share in the comments below!