Friday, January 7, 2011

Write it Like You Say it, or Not.

Over the last year or so, I have learned that writing a novel is much more than just spinning a good tale. There's a lot of little things that must fit together like a puzzle before an idea can come alive on the printed page.

Need I mention spelling or sentence structure? Well, maybe just a little. The English language is riddled with words that sound the same and yet have very different meanings - words your handy-dandy spell checker will be perfectly happy with, if they're spelled correctly.

As for sentence structure, we can all talk. We supposedly learned how at a very young age, so if we can write as well as we can talk, that's half the battle.

That is by no means all of the battle. There are so many little things about stringing a bunch of words together that make for a good sentence. Good sentences, or even captivating sentences are not all that easy to craft. Extra words and repeated words or phrases need to be watched for.

Funny thing how these things frequent our dialog without notice, but once it's on the page, it sticks out like a red flag. Or maybe that's only true when other writers encounter such things in they're reading. I know I see things like that now. Really very frustrating. I don't know whether to kick myself or stop reading altogether.

When I first started writing, I discovered that I have a flare for the dramatic. My content was quite archaic. Writing where 'my Lady' or 'my Lord' was a common tag didn't help. Bringing my style into the 20th century wasn't easy, but finally I was able to settle on the way I speak; reading out loud to myself helped, even if I seldom did it actually out loud, I still forced my brain to rattle off the sentences until they flowed off my brain's tongue easily. And coincidentally, my speaking today has even altered as I now watch for repeated words and passive sentences in my writing. So you see, the two are attached closer than you may guess.

Recently, I discovered that computers these days can read, and the coolest thing is that they can read what is actually written. Being mechanical, it picks up run-on sentences, helping me with comma placement. It also finds where I've managed to leave off the tell-tail 's' in some plurals. Such tiny mistakes like that my brain seems to always miss since it likes to read what I want to be there. I strongly recommend you figure out how to make your computers read your writing to you.

So, can I still tell a good story? Who knows. I will work on this puzzle of writing and hope you will join me. There is strength in numbers, they say, and I believe that.

What tricks to you use to help you craft your sentences?


Lisa Kumar said...

Good question, Anna.

Besides what you already mentioned, I vary sentence structure by insuring sentences are of differing lengths.

Beginning some sentences with gerunds,or with infinitive and preprositional phrases also helps. The story becomes monotonous if every sentence reads like a primer from first grade.

Anna L. Walls said...

That's great advice Lisa, thanks.