1. Mark_Archibald
    Offline

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    3

    Sentence Length

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mark_Archibald, May 1, 2012.

    The manuscript I'm working on doesn't have a ton of dialogue. I would consider it a plot driven story similar to Cormac McCarthy's work, which is a major influence on my writing style. When I write, my sentence structure can be described as brief, clear, concise and to the point, which some people have told me creates an easy to read and simple book. When I try to expand my sentences I'm told they run for to long and need to be shortened to the clear concise format described above.

    Is there any right or wrong answer here? Or am I just over thinking this problem?
     
  2. MeganHeld
    Offline

    MeganHeld Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    You want to have a book that is easy to read and is simple in a way. There is nothing wrong with your style of writing. In fact, it is proper writing. You will have a mixture of short to long sentences. Sentences do not need to run on for 20+ words when, like you have said, you can do it in less words and still get the point across. I would have to say you are over-thinking it. Sounds like too many people's opinions. Stick with what you are doing.
     
  3. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    No right or wrong. When I took my first professional writing course, the prof told us to start writing with short sentences. It's the easiest way, and it works well. In my opinion, you should try and mix it up. Using short sentences over and over can wear the reader down. If you've ever read Henry James, he uses the longest sentences ever, and he's considered one of the greatest writers. Mix it up, write, rewrite, edit, until it flows nicely. Don't over think!
     
  4. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Very short sentences and fragments tend to speed up the pace; longer sentences slow the pace. Depending on the scene, use whatever keeps things moving at the appropriate pace. (Reading aloud helps you hear when things get too much either way.)
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Mark_Archibald
    Offline

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    3
    Good ideas, I think tinkering with sentence length is better saved for revisions instead of the first draft and I shouldn't write a long sentence just for the sake of doing it.
     
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Have you read All the Pretty Horses? There are some great examples in that book of how varying sentence length can produce different effects. For example, the scene where McCarthy describes a train speeding past uses short sentences right before and after the train passes and one long sentence to describe the actual passing of the train.
     
  7. ShortBus
    Offline

    ShortBus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2011
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    0
    shadowwalker makes a good point about reading it allowed. you could take it a step further and record yourself reading and then playing it back. it sort of gives you a different perspective on your work.
     
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Use all sentence lengths! Understand how long sentences can affect rhythm and pace, and how combining them with short sentences and medium-length sentences can create the effects you want. If somebody says "Just use short sentences," they're limiting your toolbox, and limiting what you can accomplish in your prose.
     
  9. Mark_Archibald
    Offline

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    3
    I did some writing today and that is a great rule of thumb. I will remember that advice going forward and it helped me write more efficiently today and boosted my word count.
     

Share This Page