I fret about writing a sentence: whether to make it concise, minimalist and pared-down or, exuberant and rhythmic to match the tone. Are the rules that dictate brevity and concreteness enduring? My new year resolution was to craft the best sentences I could.
Adam Haslett’s feature ‘The Art of Good Writing’ is one of the best pieces I’ve read about the sentence dilemma in the ungovernable activity of writing. He looks at the forthcoming book from Stanley Fish, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One.
He quotes from William Trevor’s story ‘A Day’ to illustrate how the aural effect and rhythm of a sentence matches the pathology of his character.
Haslett counts himself among those readers who fell in love with literature not by becoming enthralled to books but ‘by discovering individual sentences whose rhythm and rhetoric was so compelling they couldn’t help but repeat them’.
Only a day to go and I will start over. Another year. Another set of writing resolutions: nonfiction manuscript to finish; dig through more research; get back to writing morning pages.
But an image has dogged me. A child in ringlets scraping a nib across a school copybook in a first attempt at joined up writing. Every letter, every word, every sentence laboriously built.
And I know that this should be my writing resolution: to craft and shape each sentence and make it as crisp and pure and strong as I possibly can.
Hemingway favoured short minimalist sentences with vigorous verbs. You can read about his 5 tips for writing well here.
So this is my simple writing resolution. To go and craft the best sentences I can. Easier said than done, you might say. Maybe you have advice on how to make great sentences?