It’s been said every sentence is a persuasive argument that succeeds or fails in convincing the reader to read the next. Agree or disagree?
Frankly, I don’t agree (completely) because the reader is complex, having a multi-dimensional purpose for reading. One aspect may be truly that each good sentence does cause the reader to continue on. But at the same time, the reader, once personally invested through time, money, promise, or any other act of will may continue reading not for that purposes alone. I listen to audio books during my commute. I have literally finished books only to be able to say I finished them, not because they provided some revolutionary insight or emotional experience. I simply wanted to finish what I started.
I’m reminded of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. She often ended a chapter right in the middle of incredible action and suspense, only to take us to view another part of her world and see what a different character was doing. I often thought about skipping ahead just to get back to the scene at hand. But what did I do? I read on, abiding by the author’s desire to take me somewhere else and trusting that in time, I would return to where I had been so captivated. Was it persuasion that propelled me through the subsequent chapter as I longed for a different scene? No, although none can content her sentences were not more than persuasive. I simply read on because the book, in its entirety, was masterfully crafted. Her story was full and the world she built multi-dimensional (not only in the time-space variety but in eliciting emotional response). I was committed to read every word, persuasive or not, through to the end.
An author, especially those aspiring to improve their craft, can find themselves working to exhaustion in order to craft one persuasive sentence after another. In the end, that tactic simply doesn’t win the race long term. It’s quite visible in the art of world building. In order to strengthen plot, background is often given to include people groups, cities, planets, past experiences and the like. If we put too much stock in convincing argument, we’ll find no room for the story welling up inside.
What’s the answer, then, as we pour out word after word, sentence after sentence? Simply this. Share the story. Share it all. Build the sentences and paragraphs, filling page upon page with your story. Will it be good? Don’t worry about that now, simply share the story. Will each sentence make the reader say “Yes, I will read the next”? Don’t worry about that now, simply share the story. Is the grammar just right or have all the spell checks been corrected? Don’t worry about that now, simply share the story.
And why, you may ask, is it most important to simply share the story and leave so many good, important things behind? Frankly this…writing a book is a long, arduous endeavor. At every turn, distraction, fear, worry, guilt, embarrassment, and author depression are waiting for you. If you allow yourself to be caught up in anything other than a resolved grit-filled focus to share your story, it may never be shared. Thousands upon thousands of books fill libraries, schools and stores. Millions more fill personal notepads, computer files, and thoughts.
Share your story. Once complete, once there is no more story to share, take out that bitter knife, that dear friend of a weapon and hack away at your words, sentences, paragraphs and pages. Leave no thought untouched, carve your work like a butcher, revealing the choicest words and most succulent sentences.
Then, not only do you have a story, you have a book. Let persuasion come in the right season, when you can focus on the desire and expectation of the reader. For now, focus on sharing your story, telling it your way by your words and your abilities.