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Re: Writing for Reading

March 18, 2015 03:55PM
Rae Elaine Wrote:
> Jane Austen wrote with long winded sentences and
> long, run on paragraphs. That may have worked
> with the grammar at the time, printed on paper,
> and a culture that has more time and less stress.
Well, sometimes she did. It was always for a purpose and never the product of mere thoughtlessness or sloppiness, which is the reason long sentences are bad. But Austen was always heading toward a point, and the reader willing to take the walk with her is rewarded by the payoff at the end, and perhaps some scenic beauties along the way.

Here is an example I picked at random. I also would offer the friendly challenge to anyone who can present a long Austen sentence that is merely wind without substance, that winds around the bend going essentially nowhere.


Darcy only smiled, and the general pause which ensued made Elizabeth tremble lest her mother should be exposing herself again. She longed to speak, but could think of nothing to say; and after a short silence Mrs. Bennet began repeating her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy. Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required. She performed her part, indeed, without much graciousness, but Mrs. Bennet was satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself forward. The two girls had been whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at Netherfield.

> Nowadays, it could be amusing -to- informative to
> have a WAG at how much we read on a screen v.s. on
> a dead tree. Either way, a few ideas can make
> reading easier, especially for us old bats who are
> blind in one eye and cannot see out of the other.
> One) A broken paragraph is probabley easier to
> wade through than one which should have been
> split.

Many times in Austen when you see a long block of type, it is a visual clue that the speaker is long-winded and perhaps scatter-brained (see Lydia's description of fun times with dressing Chamberlain as a woman or almost any speech of Collins).

> Two) Dialogue is a big stinker when run on into
> more than one speaker per paragraph. In fact, one
> speaker may need a break. (see # 1). That
> speaker may pause, shift their weight, snigger
> inappropriately, &.

I find Austen's dialogue is often concise and consistently punchy--that is, it delivers a punch. It may be I have grown used to its rhythms and cadences.

I also find that when modern writing slavishly follows the rules you raise, Rae, it does not always guarantee the story will be compelling. Writing a good sentence or even a bunch of them in an appropriately short paragraphs does NOT mean you have a plot that draws people in or characters that readers want to know about.

As for ideas to make your writing better...
1. There are no hard and fast rules. Much depends on whether the reader gets the writer. Not everyone likes the same style. One man's capnip is another's man cr*p. Also, some people are just better readers because they pay more attention, retain more and make better analyses of what a writer is attempting. I am not throwing any shade, and I certainly do not claim to be a super reader. I am simply saying the fault does not always lie in the writer.

2. Poor grammar and typos can defeat any reader. (On the other hand, some of my favorite stories in this era of e-readers are independently published little gems that are definitely grammar-challenged but grow from the kind of brilliant, insurgent thinking that could not make it past tradition-bound gatekeepers. Get thee to an editor if you can but don't stop writing.)

3. Avoid data dumps and flowery humps. It's easy and often fun for a writer to spew out words like a spigot. The reader ends up feeling a bit overwhelmed though they might get the point or admire some of the language. But what is the best way to say it?

Remember sequence -- what is the best order of events and ideas? Make tight, clear connections and squeeze out redundancies.

This is simple stuff, but it is amazing how many even good writers forget it as they lose track in their own pleasure.

Writing for Reading

Rae ElaineMarch 14, 2015 06:32PM

Re: Writing for Reading

RedsonMarch 18, 2015 03:55PM

Re: Writing for Reading

Suzanne OMarch 20, 2015 04:46AM

Re: Writing for Reading

Jim D.March 20, 2015 07:30AM

Re: Writing for Reading

Suzanne OMarch 23, 2015 12:09AM

Re: Writing for Reading

RedsonMarch 23, 2015 03:08AM

Re: Writing for Reading

Harvey S.March 17, 2015 03:39AM

Re: Writing for Reading

Jim D.March 17, 2015 02:37PM

Re: Writing for Reading

Suzanne OMarch 17, 2015 02:29PM

Re: Writing for Reading

Jean M.March 17, 2015 03:35PM

Re: Writing for Reading

AlidaMarch 17, 2015 08:24AM

Re: Writing for Reading

GingerMarch 17, 2015 03:37AM

Re: Writing for Reading

AlidaMarch 15, 2015 07:41PM

Re: Writing for Reading

laurie lMarch 17, 2015 12:24PM

Re: Writing for Reading

Jim D.March 16, 2015 06:17AM

Evokes the era or our concept of the era?

KathyMarch 21, 2015 03:19PM

Re: Writing for Reading

Jim G.MMarch 15, 2015 09:44PM


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