Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long

Keeping up my goal of a post every Monday by the skin of my teeth and thank you for those 3 extra hours I get by being on the west coast! This is the second part of Le Guin’s exercise for Chapter 3 – the chapter on sentence length and complex syntax.

And this one is the first one that has flummoxed me. The instructions are simple:

Part Two: Write a half page to a page of narrative, up to 350 words, that is all one sentence.” Steering the Craft, Page 32.

I tried a couple of times with two different topics – but I didn’t get close to half a page to a page or 350 words. More than that, I think my long sentences are pale imitations of real long sentences – just lots of sentences joined together by semi-colons or em dashes (tried both and wasn’t happy with either).  And despite trying to channel my best A Tale of Two Cities opening sentence “It was the best of times…” I would say this was the most difficult exercise so far for me. Maybe it’s the fear of run-on sentences that my English teachers so carefully cultivated…

I went back and re-wrote my Exercise 3 Part 1 passage as one long sentence and found at least I could contrast it with that one. Here goes:

The clouds moved in so quickly that they simply turned off the loud speakers and the sudden silence dispersed the noisy crowds from the bridges and bleachers along the waterfront as if by some pre-agreement that, as newcomers to the area, we had no knowledge of; this sense that everyone knew what was coming except us grew more acute as we moved a mere block away into the surrounding neighborhood and were greeted with dark streets, drawn curtains, utter silence, and not a single soul on foot – it struck me that they had vanished like the fireworks we had gone to watch, once a force to reckon with and now not even a smoky trail left in the steel grey sky ; this locals-only agreement left two greenhorns to ponder the curious effect of super saturated humidity as the air pressed down on us; from those dark curtains I’m sure they watched the newbies greet the wall of water as it cascaded from the sky as if on cue from the conductor back on the bandstand, his wand waving frantically to increase the tempo of our shouts and the rhythm of our feet as we desperately, futility tried to out run the massive storm that he unleashed with a deafening roar that I will never forget; drenched by warm water, we were transformed into salmon swimming upstream, every street corner and driveway a new and dangerous rapid to be traversed, willing sodden shoes to slop forward against the force of the water, gasping from the effort as we splashed into the lobby of our building at last.

See you next week!

2 thoughts on “Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long

  1. Wow, 350 words is a tough one indeed. I already feel challenged enough having to write 350 words for my manuscript, let alone put them all in an entire sentence. Am loving these exercises though and would like to give it a go. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Marcy Erb

      Thank you, Stuart! When I first read the exercise, I naively thought “No problem – I’ll just keep adding semi-colons!” But that didn’t really work…:D

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