Ode to the Paragraph: A Visual Work of Art (Holly Schindler)

When my first book was going through edits, I was shocked by what happened to my paragraphs.

This happened fairly late in the editing process--when I got first pass pages. This is the stage during which the interior of the book has been designed. The trim size has been set, along with margins, the fonts officially chosen, line spacing determined.

It really doesn't matter what trim size your publisher chooses (in my experience, the 5x8 or 5.5 x 8.5 seems the most common), the pages will be smaller than the pages in your Word doc. Which means your paragraphs are inevitably longer. Sometimes a lot longer. Which means your work can suddenly seem really description heavy.

Even if it's really not.

Nothing can turn a reader off like long winding paragraphs of description. It's true of adults, and it's especially true of kids!

It really is amazing how the mere appearance of a page of text can turn a reader off--even before they dive in to the actual words.

Do yourself a favor: during the drafting process, make it a point to keep your paragraphs short and tight. During your own editing process (as you're revising before submitting to an editor or agent), try adjusting your margins--make them extra wide. Or, if you're able, compile in an ebook format to read on one of your devices (which will have a smaller screen than a destop or laptop).

Eyeball your paragraphs without reading them--do they look inviting? Like something a reader could speed through? Or do they look like quicksand you might never get out of?

So much of a book's appearance is outside the writer's hands. But the shape of paragraphs is something all writers can use to help give their pages a welcoming appearance.