The Daily Journal, Saturday, February 23

In today’s Journal

▪ Topic: Paragraphing
▪ A Special Offer (I’m feeling generous)
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Topic: Paragraphing

Despite what most of us heard in school, you don’t have to keep everything about a particular topic in one massive paragraph.

Especially in fiction. And blog posts.

In fiction, you should begin a new paragraph every time a different character speaks. Most everybody knows that.

You should also begin a new paragraph when the scene or setting changes (even in the same setting, even a little).

The primary benefit of shorter paragraphs (say up to 5 or 6 lines on the page) is Pacing.

Shorter paragraphs pull your reader through the story. Period. Longer paragraphs slow the reader down, cause him or her to read more carefully.

I don’t personally use longer paragraphs very often even in my magic realism or nonfiction works, where they are most often expected.

Skip to blog posts. The same general rule applies. Shorter paragraphs pull the reader through the post.

For a simple comparison (with all due respect to the excellent writer Joe Hartlaub) read my blog post, then read “A Little Something Extra” in “Of Interest” today.

I’m not being critical of Joe here. I’m just saying, for ease of reading, compare the two blog posts side by side.

It’s difficult to slog through long and super-long paragraphs of text. A longer paragraph presents to the eye as a big square block of black type against a white page. It looks intimidating, so it is intimidating.

Back to fiction.

Especially in high-action scenes, you want short or hyper-short paragraphs. A staccato back-and-forth of one-line or one-sentence paragraphs in frenzied dialogue will cause the reader’s heart rate to increase.

It will literally force the reader to eavesdrop on the discussion (and thereby pull him/her deeper into the story). You might even say it makes the read a character in the story (The Eavesdropper). When a reader is involved, s/he’s invested and engaged in the story.

Likewise, a series of short sentences or even sentence fragments in unspoken thought (inanely, some call this “internal dialogue”) will do the same thing.

Think about this, study it, then apply it as you write.

And when you write a blog post, consider being kind to your reader.

Write short paragraphs. (grin)

A Special Offer

I’m feeling a little generous today.

In Terry Odell’s post today (see “Of Interest”) she continues the recap of Jeffrey Deaver’s presentation. At one point, he said he “doesn’t like commas because they slow the reading.”

Folks, that is pure, unadulterated bull cookies. If he doesn’t “like” commas it’s because he doesn’t understand how to use punctuation to direct the reading of his work.

If you would like to be able to wield punctuation naturally so the reader hardly notices it, email me (or comment) and I’ll send you a free copy of the second edition of Punctuation for Writers. Then you can finally throw away your dog-eared copy of Strunk & White (a regurgitation of all the “rules” we learned in high school from non-writers).

Just sayin’. PFW regularly retails for $10, but I’ll send it to you free. Just email me or leave a comment. I’ll even send a PDF copy so you can print it out if you want to.

I rolled out at 2 a.m. this morning, a good thing for a Saturday. Then I spent the first half-hour dealing with some PWW issues, then the next hour and a half (where does the time go?) checking the internet and writing the stuff above.

Then a break up at the house to release the pup from his kennel early so I can get to the novel for some uninterrupted writing.

Finally to the novel at 4:30. After cycling through what I wrote yesterday, I’d added only a little over 300 words. At 6, a break up to the house.

Back to the Hovel at 6:30, where I answered some email, etc. and basically blew a couple more hours.

Looking like today might be a light writing day. It happens.

This day just doesn’t feel right.

I thought my protagonist was about to fly to Istanbul on an assignment, but as she was packing her bag, she decided she doesn’t want to go to Istanbul.

I said, “Whaddya mean, you don’t want to go? That’s where the boss sent you.”

“I don’t want to go,” she said, and crossed her arms.

“So how about Mondragone, Italy (north of Naples)?”

She shook her head. “Bor-ing.”

“So where DO you want to go?”

“You’re the writer,” she said. “You figure it out.”

“I don’t do that. I follow you guys around, then write down what you say and do.” I glared at the screen for a moment, then said, “Tell you what, I’ll give you some time to figure out where you wants to ply your trade.” I rolled my chair back.

“Where are you going?” she said, her eyes wide.

“Sorry, but I don’t have time for this. I’ll talk with you later.” Then I closed the laptop.

I’m glad she isn’t real. The woman is formidable, and I think she knows where I live.

At 9:30 I decided to swap the new monitor I just got with the one I’ve been using in the Hovel. So I did that.

I have some other odds and ends to do, so I’ll skip the rest of today and take care of those things. I’ll be back in the morning. And I hope Miss Snooty Pants will be willing to do her job by then.

Talk with you again then.

Of Interest

See “Drop Caps” at

See “The Art of the Twist Ending” at

See “A Little Something Extra” at

See “Writing Commercial Fiction – Superstars Recap 4” at A continuation of the recap of Jeffrey Deaver’s class. Naturally, I take exception to some of this.

See “MurderCon: A Journey to Sensational Realism” at

See “Got Reading To Do” at This is basically a list of his March workshops. I recommend them, so I posted this.

Fiction Words: 1330
Nonfiction Words: 1030 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2360

Writing of Blackwell Ops 4: Melanie Sloan (novel)

Day 1…… 2363 words. Total words to date…… 2363
Day 2…… 2233 words. Total words to date…… 4596
Day 3…… 3353 words. Total words to date…… 7949
Day 4…… 1330 words. Total words to date…… 9279

Total fiction words for the month……… 59489
Total fiction words for the year………… 142892
Total nonfiction words for the month… 21270
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 46680
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 189572

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… 3
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 40
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

10 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Saturday, February 23”

  1. I got rid of my strunk and white a few years ago. I bought it because I was told this was a must have bible book for writers. Long story short, I tossed it in the trash when I figured out it had nothing to do with writing stories.

  2. Paragraphing was something I never really though about until I took Deans “Pacing” workshop. There’s so much to know!

    I’ll take a copy of “Punctuation”, if you don’t mind. Thanks.

  3. Thankfully I never got around buying a strunk and white because I first learned about it on Deans blog.

    Thank you for your generous offer. I’d love to read a copy of PFW.

  4. Great post on paragraphing, Harvey. Short paragraphs have been around a long, long time, the Bible, for example. Of course, if long dense paragraphs are your thing, you can always cozy with your auto insurance policy or a software user agreement.

  5. I appreciate your insights on paragraphing and am definitely interested in learning how to make my work more readable. A copy of your PFW book would be much appreciated.


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