Sentence stricture

I have a thought that I want to try on you. It’s like I haven’t finished thinking it and I need some help to get to the end. But it’s to do with writing, so obviously I thought of you.

A friend was telling me this week that her great problem with writing, with actually getting the stuff written, is that she worries over each sentence. She worries at each sentence too, working it, kneading it, changing it and probably quite often leaving it to go away from the desk and do something easier.

She sees nothing wrong with that. Clearly she doesn’t like it or she wouldn’t have mentioned it as the reason her book is taking a long time. And I didn’t see anything wrong with it either, not when it came up. Every word in a story or a script has to earn its place there. That’s what I think, it’s what she thinks, so it’s just unfortunate that each sentence is practically impossible to crank out free of, well, agony, really.

Except this is my thought. Maybe there isn’t anything practically impossible about writing perfect sentences, there is instead a cold, hard, 100% impossibility.

Follow. If you agree with my other friend and I that it’s important each sentence, each word, fits in perfectly and does a job for the whole story, then I want to know what you think about every sentence that follows it.

You’re in the middle of the book, you’re writing a sentence, and it has the weight of all the previous sentences on its shoulders – and equally the weight of every sentence that will follow it.

Since you can’t know yet what any of those sentences are, I don’t think you can possibly know the full load your current sentence has to bear. I don’t think it’s possible that you can craft a perfect sentence that does work with everything before it and will work with everything that ever comes after.

So I offer that perfecting any one sentence by itself, when it first comes up, isn’t even a Sisyphean task, it is completely impossible.

I felt pretty good at all of this, I felt I’d come up with something deep and profound. My pal reckoned I was just telling her to pull her finger out and write more.

I’m saying nothing.