There’s a joy in a well-turned sentence. Something so thoroughly constructed that its robustness impresses, and its meaning dazzles.
Jane Austen's novel are wonderful examples of these wonderful sentences. I don’t care for the characters of her novels. I don’t like the plots. What I love are how magnificent her prose is on the sentence level and watching her turn out page after page of the most intricate paragraphs keeps me reading on and on and on.
The second sentence in Pride and Prejudice is “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
It’s a long sentence, but look how much meaning is packed into it and how, despite its length, it never gets confusing. It is such an edifice of fine tuning that if any one part was removed it might crumble into dust.
And that’s really the magic there. Other authors do this just as well as Austen. Cormac McCarthy has sentences nearly as good. The last one in The Road is the one I’m thinking about (I’ll not spoil it here).
Don’t think you need a complicated sentence to approach this sort of majesty. Simple sentences can do it too.
Vonnegut says in Sirens of Titan, “Whatever we've said, friends, we're saying still.”
Rebecca Sugar says in “Everything Stays”: “Everything stays, but it still changes; ever so slightly-- daily and nightly-- in little ways.”
If you can write like that, you can write anything. You can draw worlds, paint people from shadows, and keep the dead from dying through sheer artistic force of will. This robustness can only come from practice and a lot of it.
I think an unattainable goal is probably best. “Write as well as Shakespeare,” for example. Not write like Shakespeare, but as well as Shakespeare. Or maybe as well as Dickens or God, if you fancy. The idea is that there’s always room for self-improvement. Head toward the goal, and try to reach it. Since it will always be out of reach, you’ll always have something to work toward.
Turn over your sentences in your head. Speak them out loud. Rewrite them. Rewrite them from memory. Merge your versions. Delete the bad stuff. Delete the boring stuff. Trim. Edit. Rewrite. Trim. Again.
Write it well.
A reQuested node.