Sentence Structure, Observation and Detail

The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtail to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks…..

From the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

 

Lately I find that I analyze what I read in a different way than I used to.  I think that might be because I am doing more writing than I have in the past.  As I read a novel, I find that I am consciously looking for techniques and patterns that will improve my own writings.

A few weeks ago I reread the works of some well-known authors of the past, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these books forced me to think about sentence structure.  The authors both use complex and compound sentences extensively.    Using a combination of complex and compound sentences mixed with shorter simpler sentences gives each of these pieces a sense of rhythm.    This observation has forced me to look at the sentence structure and the rhythm of my own writings.

In both of these novels, compound and complex sentences are an effective means of providing the reader with descriptive detail.  To write this kind of detail, obviously requires the writer to be acutely aware of his environment and experiences.    It requires accurate observation as well as intimate memory of the details.

As I journal daily I am trying to be more aware of the intimate details of what I see, hear, smell and touch, as well as how the daily experiences make me feel.  I hope that by this increased awareness and attempting to write these experiences in better compound and complex sentences I will improve my writing.

A Side Note:  I was surprised to realize that these stories, (not the piece itself, but the basic story line) especially The Grapes of Wrath, could be applicable in todays economic climate.

My quote for today:

               Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

–John Steinbeck

 

 

 

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Please Critique Me

Please critique me,

I don’t mind.

Please be honest,

but be kind.

I  have just finished reading Alan Ziegler’s, The Writing Workshop Note Book.  This book is one that I will add to my desk top. It is more than just a guide for you if you are attending a  writing workshop. It introduces you to the mechanics of a writing workshop and it provides tips for reading, writing, critiquing and teaching the craft.

Ziegler acknowledges that writers’ have different approaches to writing by sharing examples of students he has taught, writers he has known, as well as what he knows about historical writers of the past.  He encourages you as a writer to find your own style and voice.

Interlude 1 is a collection of writing exercises that provide inspiration for all writers, no matter what you write.  One suggestion has already helped me create a long list of new pieces for my memoir collection.

The section called Prepping for the Workshop, is an approach to revisions.  It provides guidelines for critiquing the work of others, but you will also go back to it frequently  to revise your own work.

The closing section has advice to help you accept the critiquing process and to get the most out of it.  Zielger shares several short antidotes about his own experiences that will amuse you and remind you that everyone can benefit from thoughtful critiquing.

Read to Write

I took a writing class one time at a nearby bookstore. When the discussion leader asked us what we read, one of the participants said, “I don’t read. I’m too busy writing. I haven’t read anything in years.” I found this unbelievable. Reading other’s work is the best creative outlet I know. I seldom read anything that doesn’t prompt me to make a note of something that I might write later.

Reading other blogs has become one of my favorite ways to come up with ideas for writing. Recently J.T. Weaver, one of my favorite bloggers shared a story about his son playing soccer. It reminded me of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter play with her team. (I’ll share that story later.) Another of his stories about planting tulips with his daughter once again reminded me of my 3-year-old-grandson helping pick potatoes. And even less directly, J.T.’s blog prompted this blog post. Thank you J.T.

How does one write, even fiction, without reading?