Friday, October 12, 2012

Sandy Writes - In Defence of Short sentences

When I began to write I immediately noticed a major difference between the style that came naturally to me and the works of fiction I loved to read. My sentences were usually quite short. I was appalled that I couldn't get this simple thing right. I tried hard to improve - to model my writing on the work of authors I admired. But it just wouldn't happen.

When my first book was accepted for publication I thought perhaps it didn't really matter. But some months later, when I took my own book from my library shelf to read, I was disappointed all over again. It didn't read like a real book. It was full of short sentences.

In time, I've grown comfortable with those short sentences. I can still build beautiful images or fast action. It's all about how I string them together and I love writing them.

One of the websites I like to visit is Maria Popova's Brain Pickings. Today I discovered in her review of Several Short Sentences About Writing, these words of wisdom from another short sentence defender:

You can say smart, interesting, complicated things using short sentences.
How long is a good idea?
Does it become less good if it’s expressed in two sentences instead of one?
[…]
Writing short sentences will help you write strong, balanced sentences of any length. Strong, lengthy sentences are really just strong, short sentences joined in various ways.

E.B White was also a defender of short sentences. Another Brain Pickings post on that here.

And a final comment from Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verilyn Klinkenborg: The only link between you and the reader is the sentence you’re making.

The length of the sentence really doesn't matter after all.


1 comment:

Judy said...

Thanks for your post on short sentences, Sandy. I've just read Polar Boy and enjoyed it hugely. I didn't notice short sentences. I was caught up in the story. Anyway, the topic is my mind at the moment as I've just finished my first novel and my editor went through joining up all my little sentences because she said it read like a reader and lacked flow. At the time I couldn't see it - that was just the way the sentences came out, short and strong. But now I'm very happy with the changes. I'm calling 2013 The Year of Long Sentences (hopefully not long rambling dissipated sentences that forget their beginnings by the time they reach their ends) and I'm hoping to lengthen my train of thought as well. I liked what Maria P had to say - 'Writing short sentences will help you write strong, balanced sentences of any length'. I love reading book with long flowing sentences, sentences that stride out with confidence. But I like tough little sentences as well.