Paragraph Length

I’ve just finished reading You Belong To Me, by Colin Harrison. It’s his eighth novel, and he previously had bestsellers with The Havana Room and Manhattan Nocturne.

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One thing that struck me about his writing style, is that he composes very long paragraphs. The longest was three pages—about 112 lines—some 1,400 words! Harrison lives in New York, where his novels are set, and he’s plainly passionate about the city. Some of these lengthy paragraphs consist of him pontificating on such things as the history of shopping malls and the use of illegal steroids in muscle gyms. Interesting as these digressions were, they didn’t advance the story at all.

I was taught that a paragraph should focus on one subject, which should be discussed until it’s completed. Harrison certainly does that, though I found my attention wandering a bit, almost longing for a paragraph break.

It made me have a look at how long my paragraphs are in my five completed novels. I appear to average out at 90 words, with only a few more than 100 words. I know that when I’m writing and I see a big block of words forming, I feel compelled to break off—more out of fear of boring readers with limited attention spans, than any lack of belief in myself.

How long are your paragraphs?

Are you intimidated by long paragraphs?

Do short choppy paragraphs put you off, as they make it hard to get a grip on the story?

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