Here is the first hand-out from our 3/3/07 Meeting
Tantalizing Sentences, Tempting Paragraphs
Presented to the NJCWG on 03/03/07
by Louise Bergmann DuMont
When you gather tantalizing sentences they soon create tempting paragraphs. These will quickly lift your writing above other manuscripts and you'll soar toward publication
ADD A TOUCH OF THE UNUSUAL
Carefully research and study your subject matter. Know what you want to say and how you are going to say it. The essence of writing an interesting article is simplicity… but to make your writing stand out, you must add a touch of the unusual. The more you know about your subject, the more likely you will be able to interject something that the reader does not already know.
WORDS THAT FLOW, SMOOTH SENTENCES
Examine your sentences and paragraphs to ensure that the words flow smoothly. A paragraph should deal with ONE (and ONLY one) idea. This idea is developed through sentences that logically advance the point you are trying to make. Each sentence should add meaning or develop the story (plot). Check, recheck and then check again for logic.
A new author's brain fairly bursts with plot twists and character information. If the author does not pass this information on to the reader in a logical fashion, the reader doesn't "get" the words. Imagine a river filled with small smooth stones. The water gently ripples over the stones but continues forward without much trouble. Whirlpools are like breaches of information. They spin the reader around and around while he tries to find a way to move on. Dams are like too much information. They stall the reader as maneuvers around the mass to get through the story.
Logical, linear sentences that vary in length but provide the appropriate information are like a babbling brook. There is a flow that is almost musical in quality.
ACTIVE LANGUAGE "POPS"
Passive writing is boring to read. Active verbs and strong nouns create friction and energy. They are the difference between a flat, warm cola on a hot day, and freshly opened bottle of sparkling champagne on New Year's Eve. Read good contemporary literature and it will "pop" with active voice.
WRITE USING YOUR OWN VOICE
If you haven't yet found your own voice, don't fret. The more you write, the more you'll realize what works and what doesn't. Practice writing the way some of the better contemporary writers do. You'll find you can not mimic some, but the voice of others will come easily. Concentrate on the "sound" of the words. Are you a forthright person - the first to arrive at every party? Or do you amble into a room fashionably late, waiting to see who else arrived first? Know your style, your writing will likely follow similar patterns.
VARY THE LENGTH OF YOUR SENTENCES
The length of a sentence can create drama, provoke tension or evoke mood. As a rule, sentences within a paragraph should vary. This helps to hold the reader's attention by allowing the reader to breathe, think and even ponder the thoughts you are presenting
Example (From Ursula Le Guin's The Earthsea Trilogy:
The boat rounded a short promontory, and he saw on the shore what he took for a moment to be a ruined fortress. It was a dragon. One black wing was bent under it and other stretched out vast across the sand and into the water, so that the come and go of the waves moved it a little to and fro in a mockery of flight. The long snake-body lay full length on the rock and sand. One foreleg was missing, the armor and flesh were torn from the great arch of the ribs and the belly was torn open, so that the sand for yards about was blackened with the poisoned dragon-blood. Yet the creature still lived. So great a life is in the dragons that only an equal power of wizardry can kill them swiftly. The green-gold eyes were open, and as the boat sailed by, the lean huge head moved a little, and with a rattling hiss, steam mixed with bloody spray shot from the nostrils