We analyze the optimal trade-off between the error exponent and the excess-rate exponent for variable-rate Slepian-Wolf codes. In particular, we first derive upper (converse) bounds on the optimal error and excess-rate exponents, and then lower (achievable) bounds, via a simple class of variable-rate codes which assign the same rate to all source blocks of the same type class. Then, using the exponent bounds, we derive bounds on the optimal rate functions, namely, the minimal rate assigned to each type class, needed in order to achieve a given target error exponent. The resulting excess-rate exponent is then evaluated. Iterative algorithms are provided for the computation of both bounds on the optimal rate functions and their excess-rate exponents. The resulting Slepian-Wolf codes bridge between the two extremes of fixed-rate coding, which has minimal error exponent and maximal excess-rate exponent, and average-rate coding, which has maximal error exponent and minimal excess-rate exponent.