In this post, we look at how writers can handle writing sentences, paragraphs, and chapters to improve their stories and articles.
Every piece of writing can be broken down into a sum of its parts. Articles, blog posts, short stories, or books all contain sentences, paragraphs, or chapters (and they all started with a core spark from the writer).
Learning to write well means developing an understanding of how writing fits together.
When we write or edit, we take sentences and paragraphs (core ideas) and turn them into fuller, fleshier, livelier pieces. But before they were complete, they existed as these fragments in need of more work.
Here’s how writers can approach sentences, paragraphs, and chapters as separate elements in their outlines and work.
The Parts Of Writing & Editing
Writing has a beginning, middle, and end.
It’s one of the oldest pieces of writing advice that has been repeated since the days of Hermes. That’s because it’s the truth.
Let’s expand further.
Writing and editing involves sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
Ideas take form using these elements.
Have you ever had a really good sentence pop into your head, or just felt good about the following chapter?
That’s what writing is. Like a puzzle, writers add, remove, rotate, and adapt until it fits together.
Keep A Fragment Diary
Writers, journalists, and other creatives can all benefit from what I call a fragment diary. Store your loose paragraphs and sentences here.
Whenever you’ve (1) come up with a good fragment, or (2) removed a fragment from another piece, it goes here.
If you have a day where ideas feel dried up, refer to your fragment diary and pick up some loose ends.
Write In Parts
But they do not have to be written in sequence – ever. When outlining a piece, write down fragments, parts, keywords, and other bits. Things that sound good go on the page.
Once you have your parts together, start fleshing them out.
Don’t outline like this yet? Try it. Writing might become a whole lot easier.
IMPORTANT: Writing & Readability
Readability statistics are vital for easy reading. It’s what your word processor’s readability checker is meant to be used for.
Sentences should be nine words long (on average) for easy reading. While some are longer or shorter, the eye (and mind) tends to prefer this rounded average.
Paragraphs should have no more than three sentences, or they turn into what’s called walls of text.
Writing Sentences, Paragraphs, & Chapters Explained
The official definition of a sentence is a combination (or a collection) of words that make up a complete idea or concept. Sentences have to mean, evoke, or stand for something.
- ‘Words typewriter Bangladesh timeous horse-driven carriage Monday!’
- ‘Watch out, oncoming truck!’
Number one is not a sentence, even though it is a collection of words. Number two contains less, but says more.
Learn from the above that sentences (that is, what you say and how you say it) are important things.
Tips For Writing Better Sentences
1. Sentences Have Rhythm
If you listen to dialogue, or read out pieces of writing, you’ll quickly notice that there’s a rhythm to it. That’s a sentence, and there’s a rhythm to every person (or language) on earth.
Can’t find a beat to what you’re writing? Rewrite it until you’ve found a rhythm that works.
2. Sentences Say Things
Sentences say things. They are collections of pixels or ink, which you are putting on the page as a writer. When writing, think about every sentence you are putting down – and how each of them can be improved, said better, or edited to fit.
Do you have any sentences in your writing that aren’t saying what you want them to? Find them, and change that!
3. Sentences Also Evoke
Sentences are there to evoke emotions, feelings, thoughts, or concepts for the reader. If your sentences don’t, they are going to need some more work – or they do not belong in that specific piece of writing.
Always keep this in mind for easier sentence writing, and good luck!
A paragraph is defined as a collection of sentences, which usually forms a singular concept, idea, theme, or scene. Paragraphs are clear when you see them in writing, because they are split up into lines, tabs, or parts.
When writing and editing, expect to move paragraphs around, chop parts from paragraphs, and edit them to other paragraphs.
The goal should be to make things fit better, and read easier.
Tips For Writing Better Paragraphs
1. Down With The Wall (Of Text)
Walls of text just don’t sit well with the eyes or minds of readers. Walls are overwhelming, and have the potential to put many readers (or editors) off continuing to read.
Break up paragraphs into smaller, sensical parts. This almost always requires a look at the sentences, and where good scene (or paragraph) breaks fit.
One or two core ideas per paragraph, then move to the next.
2. Enter & Delete (Are Your Best Friends Now)
When dealing with paragraphs, the Enter and Delete keys on your keyboard will become your best friends.
Enter (or Return) splits up longer bits into smaller ones. Delete gets rid of things that shouldn’t be there.
It’s 99% of what editing is. Enter, delete, enter, delete…
3. Making Copy-Pasta
Editing and refining the paragraph isn’t just deleting and clicking enter. Writers will notice that shifting around can also do a lot for a piece being edited.
Spot a sentence that doesn’t fit? Copy and paste.
Would the middle of a paragraph make a better introduction? Well, copy and paste.
It’s Ctrl + C for copy, and Ctrl + V for paste.
They’re your other best friends now.
Chapters can be defined as long-form paragraphs. There’s a singular theme, idea, or concept surrounding most chapters in both fiction and nonfiction work. Yet, they are longer than the average paragraph when you look at them by word count.
A good chapter always fits. It fits well with the chapter that went before it, and it fits well with the chapter that goes after it. Where chapters don’t fit well, beware of losing the attention of your reader.
When editing, remember that chapters are part of a bigger picture. You’ll notice when a chapter doesn’t quite feel right for what’s surrounding it, and that’s where you go back and piece things together in a different way.
Choose a few books from your shelf or e-reader. Now, find examples of a great chapter, and a bad one. Read them again, and figure out 3 points that make them good (or bad).
Tips For Writing Better Chapters
1. Read A Chapter (On Its Own)
When trying to figure out if a chapter fits (or makes sense), read it on its own first. Each chapter might be part of a larger picture, but should generally also be able to stand as an excerpt – and if it can’t, it’s a potential weakness to fix!
2. Study Chapters
Study fiction and nonfiction, and pay special attention to chapters. It’s the only way to learn how to write or edit them better.
Would you be able to deal with a rattlesnake if you had never seen one, dealt with one, or handled one? No. Don’t take the same approach to the chapter, and take the time to get to know the form of writing first.
3. Chapters Start & End With (You Guessed It) Sentences
At the beginning, we talked about writing as a sum of its parts. Learn to look at chapters as a big machine made up out of the smaller bits this article also talks about.
Chapters can easily be overwhelming when editing or writing as a whole. It’s a couple hundred or thousand words – and that looks terrifying. So, don’t do it.
Instead, look at the sentences and paragraphs within the chapter. Edit and write these, and chapters seem a lot less scary, don’t they?
The next writing exercise is to study the beginning and end sentences of chapters. Choose fiction, choose nonfiction. Choose short things, and longer things. What makes the sentences work, or fail?
What are the greatest (and worst) sentences, paragraphs, and chapters you have ever encountered? Use the comments section to get in touch!
The Last Word
I hope this post has made it easier for you to put together sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
If you want to improve your writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read his other posts:
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- 30 Essential Websites & Web Apps For Writers
- 15 Ways To Edit A First Draft
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- 10 Common Mistakes Journalists Make (& How To Avoid Them)