What titles stand out among the many books and essays about writing? Most people can name a few favorites. Mine include William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White’s The Elements of Style and “On Writing,” an essay by short story master Raymond Carver. To this list, I've added Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg.
In this unconventionally structured book, Klinkenborg, author of The Rural Life, describes the core responsibilities of the writer’s job:
“Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Your other jobs include fixing sentences, killing sen-
tences, and arranging sentences.” (p. 67)
Engaging characters, a nimble plot, snappy dialog, memorable settings—all exist because the writer has crafted strong sentences.
If he were alive, Carver might jot this passage on a three-by-five index card. Like novelist Richard Ford, he collected quotations about writing. One card he taped to his wall quoted Ezra Pound: “Fundamental accuracy of statement is the ONE sole morality of writing.” As I read Several Short Sentences About Writing, I found myself jotting quotations on my own index cards:
“You only become a better writer by becoming a
better reader.” (p. 17)
“Prose is the residue, the consequence, of the writer's
Choices about the shape of each sentence
And how each sentence shapes the others.” (p. 35)
“Learn to write anywhere, at any time, in any conditions,
With anything, starting from nowhere.
All you really need is your head, the one indispensable
requirement.” (p. 80)
Throughout the book, Klinkenborg challenges established conventions—the utility of an outline, the primacy of meaning—inviting the reader to write about what he or she finds most interesting, to notice the world, to believe that writing should be discovery, to consider the nuances and histories of individual words. Make no mistake, he says, putting down the right words in the right order is not easy. But that’s what the job requires.
Several Short Sentence About Writing, The Elements of Style, Raymond Carver’s Fires, and hundreds of other books about writing are available in The Story Center Collection. Among them, you’ll likely find your favorites, discover something new, and perhaps feel inspired to jot a few quotations.
The Story Center
A good name is worth more than great riches! My mother in law lived that verse of scripture before her family her entire life. If I had to live my life over again, I would live my life with that as my motto! No greater sacrifice can one man make than to lay their life down for another. She laid her life down for ours as she took care of everyone - her children, her grandchildren, the women in the community, the people in the church. Only when we give of ourselves selflessly can we begin to be an example to this generation that does not understand how to live. We need to teach young people to write about character. We need to stop using modern literature and return to character based literature so they have examples to base their understanding of right from wrong.