March 11

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How to Write a Sentence, by Stanley Fish, at the Fiction Writers Review

My essay on Stanley Fish’s book, How to Write a Sentence, and on ways to improve your sentence-making in general, has been published by the excellent web journal, Fiction Writers Review. I describe Fish’s method of learning through imitation, attempt to use his rules to produce some good sentences of my own, and then offer a critique of Fish’s ideas. I’m grateful to Lee Thomas for her insightful, patient editing, which clarified many of my first draft’s vagueries.

Here is the first paragraph:

It is already a commonplace, in essays and books on the craft of writing, that if you want to write good fiction, you must be able to write good sentences. The question Annie Dillard asks aspiring writers in The Writing Life—“Do you like sentences?”—is echoed, in longer form, by Francine Prose in the early pages of Reading Like a Writer. Rick Moody, in his introduction to Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories, twice states that, “It’s all about the sentences,” a claim given poetic form by Gary Lutz, who calls the sentence the “one true theater of endeavor.” Indeed, the sentence is the most concrete unit of written prose, containing a definite beginning and end, the place where writers lay out logical connections between the parts of speech. We think in many shapes, but we write in sentences. Whatever we attempt in English prose—whether essay, tale, or recipe—unless it is unusually experimental, must be made of sentences.

The rest of the essay: How to Write a Sentence.

Daniel


Tags

craft of writing, how to write better sentences, learning through imitation, stanley fish


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