About paragraphing, Natalie asks,
To be able to do this succesfully in a novel would be a great skill. What would you say to newbie writers trying to hone their voice in regards to going this direction?
First, I would say that paragraphs are like meatloaf. Everyone's recipe is just a little different. And everyone ends up with a slightly different dinner. Does that mean it's not meatloaf anymore? Of course not.
Your paragraphing choices will bear the imprint of your voice. I think the key is to be aware of what you're doing and to be aware of other choices for paragraphing and the effect they might have on your prose.
An Exercise For Everyone
Let's all take out a manuscript that isn't entirely new. You want one you've been working on, one you may have spiffed up so that you feel it's in pretty good shape.
Now scan the pages until you find three paragraphs with at least three sentences each that contain no dialogue. Avoid dialogue paragraphs for now, because dialogue paragraphs are written differently than other paragraphs.
Compare these three paragraphs. What do you open with? Action? Interior monologue? Where is the description? Where is the emotion? What do you close with?
Look at the first line of the next paragraph. Does it link back to the paragraph you're analyzing?
Notice your sentence lengths and structures. Do you tend to end on a short note? Is your middle sentence always compound?
You're looking for patterns. You have patterns, whether you're sensitive to them or not. You may need to look at more than three paragraphs before you start to see your patterns emerge -- and you may find you have multiple patterns. Maybe you gravitate toward paragraphs that open with rhetorical questions when a character is wrestling with a decision. Maybe your action paragraphs all contain a one or two word fragment somewhere in the middle of the paragraph. Maybe you always pair interior monologue and description in a particular way.
Notice anything interesting? Let's hear about it! I'm willing to bet we hear about lots of different patterns!
ps. I'm FLOORED by the results of that auction yesterday. Thank you to everyone who bid! And thank you to the winner -- I'll try my best to live up to your very generous bid!