To master the art of sentence-writing is to master the art of literature.
Develop the ability to write spellbinding sentences and you'll set your ideas free: free to soar.
The good news about sentence-writing is that you already know more than you think about this art and craft. Some of this knowledge you acquired in school. The rest you developed through your own reading and writing – even if over the course of your life you've not read or written very much: it is all still there, I promise you, haunting the hallways of your head, and you must simply shine light onto it, recall it, coax it out and formalize a handful of core principles, so that you can then draw upon these principles at will.
"Mastery is the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressivly easier and more pleasurable through practice," wrote George Leonard, and I agree.
His words capture, in my opinion, the essence of what goes into the mastery of any trade or art or sport or skill, and that essence is this: the more you practice the thing you wish to master, the more you develop a passion for that thing. The more passion you have for it, the more enjoyable it is, and the better you get, so that practicing is no longer a chore but rather a process you love and derive pleasure from.
What This Course Is Not
This course is not a grammar course. It's about something else – something deeper: it's about the power of the written word and will teach methods by which you can harness that literary power.
Just as you cannot become a better athlete unless you practice your chosen sport and just as you cannot become a better musician unless you practice your chosen instrument or instruments, so for this same reason you cannot become a better writer unless you practice writing.
Wherever you are upon the writing spectrum – very experienced, moderately experience, or not experienced at all – the methods taught in this course equally apply. The reason for this is that the curriculum here is not a proscriptive list-of-rules by which your writing will live or die (e.g. do not use adverbs; do not use the word "very"; do not use the word "commence"...) but rather specific methodologies, as well as explanations for the principles behind those methodologies.
Sentences: Digestible Morsels of Meaning
You've seen them. We all have: sentences so pristine and pitch-perfect – so well-crafted and well-phrased – that they dazzle us with the brilliance of their structure, their beauty, the sheer power of their words and syntax.
Yet the question must be asked, and answered:
Why is it important to learn how to write good sentences, as against, for example, good chapters or good paragraphs or even good stories or good poems?
The answer is this: because sentences form the foundation of all written things – and because without words, there is no thought, and ideas are thoughts.
I say again: if you develop the ability to write spellbinding sentences, you'll liberate your ideas thereby – setting them free to soar.
Literature is the art-form of language, and words are its tools. As a painter uses paint, as a musician uses musical instruments, as a sculptor uses hammer and chisel, so a writer uses words. Words form the foundation of every sentence – just as sentences form the foundation of all written things – and this is why word-choice and vocabulary are an important part of every good writing methodology.
A sentence must perform two tasks at once: it must first hold the reader's interest – either in what it's saying (i.e. the subject-matter) or in how it's saying it (i.e. style), or, best of all, both these things – and then the sentence must flow naturally, logially into the sentence immediatley following it.
Think of your sentences as forming one long flow – a flow made up of many discrete parts. The stronger you make each part – each sentence – the stronger your sentences will contribute to each surrounding sentence, and, therefore, the more swift and durable your writing and the more unified the entire smoothly flowing body of literature.
What Is a Sentence?
A sentence is a unit of one or more words conveying a complete thought.
Sentences carry meaning. They are brief intelligible bursts of comprehension.
Usually (though not always) a sentence contains a subject – which is to say, the person or thing being described – and a predicate, also known as a verb, which describes the action being taken. Sentences also often have a direct object, which is the secondary person or thing that's part of the verb's action:
He ate the donuts.
"He" is the subject, "ate" is the predicate, and "the donuts" is the direct object.
It is also quite common to see sentences which have what grammarians call an implied subject. For example:
Those are all grammatically correct sentences, the subject of which, in all three examples, is an implied subject.
It is also, I think, important to point out that in dialogue virtually anything qualifies as a legitimate sentence – the reason being that context is king. Here, for example, according to all textbook-grammar rules, the following words -- "The rain stopped." – form by any grammatical standard a complete and completely legitimate sentence. Yet the words "The rain" do not form a legitimate, grammatical sentence. Why? Because those words are truncated and don't express a complete thought.
But look at them here:
"Cold and melancholy?" she asked him. "What are you referring to?"
That is a perfectly grammatical sentence.