Friday, June 30, 2017

Winston Churchill on Writing Paragraphs and Chapters

When Churchill was writing The River Wars (1899), he gained an understanding of how to organize his writing. From My Early Life, Chapter XVI:

I affected a combination of the styles of Macaulay and Gibbon, the staccato antitheses of the former and the rolling sentences and genitival endings of the latter; and I stuck in a bit of my own from time to time. I began to see that writing, especially narrative, was not only an affair of sentences, but of paragraphs.

Indeed I thought the paragraph no less important than the sentence. Macaulay is a master of paragraphing. Just as the sentence contains one idea in all its fullness, so the paragraph should embrace a distinct episode; and as sentences follow one another in harmonious sequence, so the paragraphs must fit on to one another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages.

Chapterisation also began to dawn upon me. All the chapters should be of equal value and more or less of equal length. Some chapters define themselves naturally and obviously; but much more difficulty arises when a number of heterogeneous incidents none of which can be omitted have to be woven together into what looks like an integral theme.

Finally the work must be surveyed as a whole and due proportion and strict order established…. I already realised that ‘good sense is the foundation of good writing.

(my paragraphing of the text)


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