Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Art of Styling Sentences

image I am so embarrassed—egg-on-face, I’m-an-idiot embarrassed—that I used to imagine copyeditors as anal fuddy-duddies.


Digging into word choice, punctuation, grammar and the like have been an absolute blast. I not only enjoy this stuff, but I am absolutely delighted and fascinated it with it!

And, everyone—pretty please, with sugar on top—will you please cross your fingers, light a candle, and/or pray? I might have found a little copyediting gig. Maybe even some actually writing, but we’ll see. When starting out as a freelancer, the first gig is always the hardest to get. Hope for me, please! Pretty please?

One of the old writers (I’ve forgotten who) learned his craft by practicing sentences first and then paragraphs. This fascinated me when I heard it; then and there I decided I would make a list of all the varying forms and structures of sentences I could think of.

imageI never got around to it, but Ann Longknife, Ph.D., and K.D. Sullivan did. In The Art of Styling Sentences, they list twenty basic sentence patterns. It is skewed toward student writing and essays, but that does not lessen its usefulness to writing fiction.

Twenty different sentence patterns!!!

Isn’t that cool?

Sometimes I feel like I only use three or four. I know we do most of this stuff naturally, but it’s fun to remember and learn how to do it consciously. It makes me feel like I’m sharpening my swords. Knowledge is power, and learning all this copyediting stuff is both exhilarating and thrilling to me.

I think I might explore the different patterns a little more in some upcoming posts. It’s fascinating stuff. Just let me know if I start to sound like a boring old professor, LOL.

So do you think about sentence patterns? How many different patterns do you think you use? Have you ever tried to list them?

And I haven’t asked in awhile: how are your WIPs going? I finally finished the novella that would not end. I am now finishing the second novella that would not end. Then I’ve got a fun novella to write, and by March I start my vampire novel. Yay! I’m really hoping the fun novella will be a “gift,” and I’ll get it done quickly.

What’s going on in your writing world? Your life?

29 bonus scribbles:

Kate S 2/07/2009 07:16:00 PM  

Shame on you, Spyscribbler. Anal fuddy-duddies, indeed! I am SO insulted. I am only a duddy, not fuddy at all!

Congratulations all around! :) Crossing fingers and toes for you.

As for me, I'm trying to finish up a couple of short stories. I could have done so today, but my daughter chose today of all days to start baring her soul. I've been trying to get her to talk to me all week, so when she sees me pull out the AlphaSmart and start typing, she decides NOW would be a good time to talk. :)

Oh, well. I'm just glad she's talking again. Stories can wait.

Heather Harper 2/07/2009 09:35:00 PM  

My writing has been so erratic since all the personal crappage hit our family fan.

I would love to push out a fast draft before we receive worse news. Lol!

Georgie B 2/07/2009 09:36:00 PM  

Hmmm....good question.

First off, congrats on the gig. Anything that helps with your writing and especially helps with the bills is always a plus.

As for me, as you no doubt aware of, I am working on my second novel. I seem to have a problem with procrastination, so I figure talking about it would help jumpstart me on the road to ruin.

And I'm also working on a funky short story for my blog (only the second original thing I've written in the past year and a half. Told ya, procrastinaiton). Funny thing is, I'm determining the page count strickly on how many weeks I want to take up posting it.

Eric Mayer,  2/07/2009 09:45:00 PM  

Good luck with the copy editing work!

That sentence stuff is interesting, but, honestly, I couldn't possibly think about anything like that and actually write.

Edie 2/07/2009 10:44:00 PM  

Sending good copy editing job vibes your way. I feel your excitement over this.

I'm halfway through my book, but my contest promo keeps stopping me. I'm writing blogs ahead of time now. And looking up pictures for the blogs.

Charles Gramlich 2/08/2009 01:17:00 AM  

20 different kinds? hum, sounds interesting. I'm going to have check this out.

Lauren 2/08/2009 09:30:00 AM  

Good luck with that gig. The first one is always such a pain to get. Do you have a writing website for your copy writing business?

Also, thanks for sharing that book. I think that structing sentances in the written word is so important in establishing voice. Point in case look at my writing. It's innundated with run-ons and fragments. Lots of fragments. I write how I speak.

But then again, I'm far from a professional.

I'm going to go check out this book. Thanks for mentioning it.

Melanie Avila 2/08/2009 10:15:00 AM  

*crosses fingers*

That's funny you mention sentence structure today because I just got my beta's notes on my wip and among other things, she gave me suggestions for changing the sentence structure in stressful moments. I tend to lean towards fragments (I think) so my third draft reflects all the lengthening I did. Apparently too much, lol. So this will be one thing I'll watch for in draft 4.

I haven't done any writing recently - just working on my query and synopsis - and I'm excited to get into my next draft. She gave me ideas for a subplot that's already forming in my head.

Dube 2/08/2009 12:31:00 PM  

I am definitely crossing my fingers for your copy-editing gig! Keep us posted. :)

Zoe Winters 2/08/2009 04:23:00 PM  

The contest is winding down, and I've never been so excited to see a MONDAY before.


And I found an amazing and affordable cover artist for the book. I'm hoping to release the novella trilogy late summer or early fall.

Barbara Martin 2/09/2009 02:25:00 AM  

Keep your spirits up, Spy, and you'll be just fine. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Angie 2/09/2009 10:28:00 AM  

My WIP came to a crashing halt within a few chapters of the end, and is now crawling toward the finish line with an anvil roped to its ankles. :P

Starting is easy -- total freedom to come up with new plots and subplots, toss in more characters and twists, set up red herrings and choices and possibilities, yay! The last few chapters, though, is where you have to pull it all together, braid everything together neatly and have the various subplots wrap in the write order, and the major plotlines wrap at about the same time. It's all balance and timing and it takes a lot more focus and effort (for me, anyway) to wrap a story, especially a longer, more complex story, than it does to dive in at the beginning.


writtenwyrdd 2/09/2009 07:17:00 PM  

I couldn't list the various sentence patterns all out, but I consciously try to vary my sentence patterns. I think I might need to buy that book! (Problem is, might never read it like the rest of the books on writing on the shelf.)

I hope your gig comes through and works out for you. I do not have the eye to copy edit for punctuation and grammar; I miss too much.

Realmcovet 2/10/2009 08:55:00 AM  

I can't wait to hear more about your vampire novel. I think coming from your perspective, you could be throwing some really fresh ideas out on the table.

And well wishes, prayers and good vibes go your way in the copyedit department. Sounds terribly fun!!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 04:35:00 PM  

I know, Kate, it's TERRIBLE! LOL! So cool on the short stories!

And you're so right about talking. It's so hard to get them to talk at that age!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 04:36:00 PM  

Go, Heather! I'm erratic when stuff is hitting the fan in my life, too. I hope there will be no more worse news, but I also hope you get that draft done! :-)

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 04:44:00 PM  

Georgie, isn't that the truth? I am grateful for the work, I definitely am.

LOL, I find talking about it keeps me from procrastinating, too! One of those things.

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:28:00 PM  

Eric, thanks! And wow, yes, it has DEFINITELY made me stumble over my writing, lately!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:30:00 PM  

Edie, that's awesome! I've been writing my blogs ahead of time, too. This week, though, I kept thinking they all sounded stupid and deleted all five of them! *sigh*

I'm not sure if it's good or not to have a day to think about what I said, LOL!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:30:00 PM  

Oh, Charles, it's GREAT. It even includes fragments and stuff, so it's not like it's voice-stifling.

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:32:00 PM  

Lauren, it has a whole chapter on fragments. They're important for voice. :-)

No website, LOL. At this point, having a website that said, Experience: 0, would probably hinder more than help me!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:37:00 PM  

Melanie, that's one of those things that's a matter of individual taste. I'd say protect the voice, first, but that's just me. I think you have a rich, lyrical voice. LOL, it's a matter of taste!

A new subplot! Awesome! Good luck!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:38:00 PM  

LOL, Zoe... I would say "Yay!" but I know that "winding down" bit just changed for you. :-)

The end is soon, though!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:38:00 PM  

LOL, Barbara! Good words!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:39:00 PM  

Angie, amen! I just wrote a post about endings, but I felt it was stupid, so didn't post it. I don't know what's up with me this week. I should post it.

You're so right. I love endings, love, love, love them, but they are a bit excruciating and complex, too!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:41:00 PM  

Written, me too! I try, but I never considered all the different patterns in my arsenal, LOL!

My TBR pile is HUGE!

spyscribbler 2/10/2009 05:42:00 PM  

I hope so, Realm. Even if not... it will be fun to write. I hope.

Copyediting gig is ending up being more a copywriting gig. I'm grateful, either way. Just... I really want to do the copyediting.

Melanie Avila 2/11/2009 09:36:00 AM  

Spy, I'll be careful to only take what helps the story. The sentences in question are in action scenes where it helps to have them a little shorter.

Thanks for looking out for me!