The sentence is the smallest unit of thought in a novel, and I’ve been finding myself giving more and more sentence-related notes on writing craft lately. Writing a good sentence is clearly flummoxing a lot of writers. I’ll do a lot more talking about this in the near future, but I did want to prime you all to start thinking hard about your sentences by sharing an article I read a while ago. (The author is Christopher R. Beha, and the essay is here.)
Writing Craft vs. Overwriting
This essay may be old news to some, and it’s a bit long, but it’s still an excellent and thought-provoking read. I urge all of you to go through this and give it a lot of thought.
One of my favorite sentences from it:
You don’t develop a style by writing sentences that have no purpose other than to be stylish, sentences that seek to be self-contained works of art.
A-MEN! This ties into my ideas about overwriting, and writing good sentences by writing simply. One of my favorite notes to give to editorial clients is, “You’re saying something simple in a complicated way.
Meditate on that truism of the writing craft for a moment. Is style more important to you as a writer, or is substance? It’s always easy to tell which writers prioritize flash and making a good impression, over the ones who tend to put a premium on clarity.
Remember, writing a good sentence is, above all, about communication. Your first consideration should always be, am I getting across? The fancy stuff, more often than not, just gets in the way.
I work wither writers all the time as a book editor to hone their writing voice and develop their writing craft. If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey toward writing a good sentence (which is all there is to it, really), let’s talk.