March 11, 2014
Here are some tips on writing sentences:
1. Put things in logical order so the reader can follow. Make sure you put your words on paper in the order that you want the reader to see the images they represent. Don’t show images before the reader sees the action.
2. Put emphatic words at the end. Emphasis tends to flow to the end of a sentence, so if there is a word or phrase you want to say a little more loudly, put it at the end.
3. Put the most powerful sentence at the end of the paragraph so the reader is left with that image during the silence between paragraphs.
4. Vary the length of your sentences. Strings of sentences of all the same length feel repetitive and boring to the reader. Read through a paragraph of your writing and do a word count in your sentences. One of my all-time favorite paragraphs is the second paragraph in Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Poisonwood Bible. The word counts of its sentences are 4–12–15–22–11–4–7–23– 20–7. (The first paragraph in that book, by the way is a single-sentence stunner: “Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.”) What a sentence says and does determines its length.
5. Vary the construction of your sentences. Use clauses, complex sentences, series; use complete sentences or sentence fragments (but not too often); use punctuation to create breaks and pauses. In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner writes of the importance of rhythm in sentences. “By keeping out a careful ear for rhythm, the writer can control the emotion of his sentences with considerable subtlety.”
I was once told that every sentence should contain at least one surprising word, a word that packs a wallop. But sometimes when I try for that roundhouse, I use a word that calls too much attention to itself and instead knocks down the whole wobbly structure. The job of the sentence is to lead the reader to the next sentence. Still, in reading some of my favorite writers, I like to get stopped in my tracks by a sentence so stunning, so beautiful, and so true that I don’t want to go forward. Not just yet. I want to linger, as if this sentence were a gorgeous painting or sculpture—a work of art, which I believe it is. I hope the same is true for you.
Reeves, Judy (2010-08-26). A Writer's Book of Days. New World Library. Kindle Edition.
My Comments: Getting the first word just right is what I often struggle with when beginning a piece of writing. My writing mentor, Joyce Armstrong Carroll called it the 6-Second Hook!
Copyright © 2014 Annie
Always…I wish you peace, joy and happiness, but most of all I wish you Love.
As Ever, Annie