Wannabe Writers Beware: How many sentences are in a paragraph?
Working in a writing center was always a mix of disbelief in the questions you get asked on a daily basis, and pride in helping others learn that they had something to say, and could say it well, if they were willing to put in the work.
The whole range of emotions from students was enough to keep one busy wondering if you could have said something differently... it was a delicate balance between encouraging them and giving them honest feedback, pointing out what was going to cause them to fail and getting them to even realize that everything they thought they knew about writing essays could be wrong.
So when I got the student that asked, "How many sentences are in a paragraph, though? Three, right?" I barely kept composed. No, I explained, there's not a certain number like a math formula - there are longer and shorter paragraphs, and the key is to complete an idea in that space, not just count lines.
While most of us aren't limited to that type of boxed thinking, I do find a lot of fiction writers struggling with the idea of where to break for a chapter - and they do so very awkwardly at first. I have even been asked about how many pages each should be, and my advice was rejected when I suggested that some chapters needed to go on a little longer to come to a natural break in the story.
Some great places to stop a chapter:
- when the POV changes (POV is point of view, so when character from which we are experiencing the story changes)
- when an event is over (they overcome a particular challenge, leave a physical place, a new challenge appears on top of the current ones)
- when a day is finished (or a week if time is going by with more of just the highlights) - when a new character is about to be introduced What are some good chapter break ideas you have used or seen?