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Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft Lecture

Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft

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Publisher's Summary

Why do some lengthy sentences flow effortlessly while others stumble along? Why are you captivated by the writing of particular authors? How can you craft sentences that reflect your unique outlook on the world?

This lively, 24-lecture course introduces you to the myriad ways in which we think about, talk about, and write sentences. Reviving the sentence-oriented approach to studying writing, Professor Landon provides a greater context for what makes sentences great - and how you can apply these methods to your own writing.

You'll look at the kernels from which sentences grow - minimal base clauses - and how adding words or phrases creates larger, cumulative sentences that lead toward great writing. You'll explore sentence constructions that make writing more complex and add exciting levels of suspense, and see tactics that create balance and rhythm.Recognizing and appreciating these and other eye-opening aspects of sentences helps you understand the work that goes into creating an effective, pleasurable sentence, which can make you more aware of why particular lines, passages, or phrases in the poems, novels, or articles you read so enchant you.

Professor Landon draws abundantly on examples from the work of brilliant writers, including Don DeLillo, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Johnson, and more. With its passionate approach to writing and reading and its indulgence in the sheer joy of language, this journey gives you unique insights into the nature of great writing-and also teaches you how you can achieve some of this greatness yourself.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 09-22-13
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 09-22-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I appreciate long sentences more now"

    I am not a writer, but I bought this book because I am curious about how writers craft sentences. As the author clarifies early in the first chapter, this book is actually about building good LONG sentences. He explains how good, long, sustaining sentences are built. He cites many good examples from current and past writers. Some of the analytical observations and technical terms used to describe certain approaches in building sentences are bit too much for me, and I somehow doubt that Hemingway and other great writers studied these technical aspects of writing, but the materials covered in this book are still fascinating to me, and I now appreciate long sentences more. One small issue for me was that it took me some time to get used to this professor's tone of voice and his accents. You might want to check out the sample to hear his voice first to see if you are comfortable listening to the sound for 12 hours.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sher from Provo Utah 08-16-13
    Sher from Provo Utah 08-16-13 Member Since 2015

    Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.

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    "Worth Listening To"

    I loved this book. Dr. Landon brings things to mind about the construction of a sentence that I had never considered before. I am very interested in writing and have done a bit of amateur writing myself. It is something I would like to do more of in the future, and having read/listened to this book, I now believe I have a better chance at being good at it.

    Dr. Landon is funny and serious, having a great way about him that holds the attention, which allows the learning to take place. This book is certainly not for everyone, but even if you do not ever intend to write an interesting sentence, being a bibliophile like I am, you may like this book because of the new, more enlightened way you are bound to read books. Hahaha, my sentences are still awkward, but now I have a pattern to follow that, with practice, will help me improve.

    I certainly intend to listen to more of the "Great Courses" series. What a great way to educate oneself.

    27 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl 08-28-13
    Darryl 08-28-13 Member Since 2008
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    "good writers course"

    I've listened to many Great Courses before and now that they are on Audible it can only be good. this one was interesting for me as I like to study writing techniques and style etc as well and you gain insight not only into methods to try, but into what makes some of the great writers great. there are many excellent quotations from famous writers that make me want to read them more if i haven't already.

    one good thing about these courses is that you can do the lessons/lectures one at a time and come back after something else and continue, or do them several together.

    the only thing i would change is the little intro/exit announcement and applause needs to go. and i would like to see at least a pdf of materials referred to if not the actual sentences quoted.

    will listen again to this and plan to get others.

    25 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 11-07-13
    Robert 11-07-13
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    "Write longer sentences and throw out "The Rules"."
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brooks Landon?

    I would listen to another of the great courses, but not another by Prof. Landon.


    If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

    NA


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Brooks Landon?

    Really any professional narrator would have greatly improved the audiobook. While some listeners were bothered by his accent and pronunciation, what really drove me to the brink of abandoning the program was his constant amusement at his own writing, amusement evidenced by involuntary little giggles, tiny chuffs of air really, that precede the first word in a clause and that signal to the reader that the author, prescient of the clever wordplay about to be communicated, is on the verge of some tidbit of witty banter. Unfortunately, most of the time, these linguistic gems fail to deliver the goods hinted at by the author's little chuckle. Like the pronunciation problems that some reviewers have mentioned, these mini giggles, once I had focused in on them, became a persistent source of exasperation as I listened.


    Any additional comments?

    The material is quite good and I believe it would be useful to a broad spectrum of developing writers. There is enough good advice and information to have filled 5 hours. Unfortunately, the course is more than double that. The extra time is taken up with repeating the valid points over and over again as well as by reciting mind-numbing strings of alternate sentence constructions. For example, if the point is that a sentence with a base clause and four free modifying clauses can be rearranged in any order, the author actually spends several minutes rearranging the clauses to demonstrate the point. Even the slowest pupil would have gotten the point after the third or fourth alternate version, but on they go.

    29 of 33 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ddsharper Los Angeles, CA 05-10-14
    ddsharper Los Angeles, CA 05-10-14 Member Since 2001
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    "Great Lessons If You are Ready for them"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft to be better than the print version?

    Cannot say, since I don't have the print version.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not applicable- non fiction book


    What does Professor Brooks Landon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't know


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    not applicable


    Any additional comments?

    I have listened to this book over and over throughout the years, having first downloaded the series from the Great Courses website, and as I gain in knowledge, about the writing craft, I find this series more and more valuable to my growth as a writer, picking up new details I'd previously missed, with each listen. For those who find the lectures too pedantic, I'd suggest checking out Writing123 dot com, which too is based upon the same concepts presented in this series, as laid out by Francis Christensen. You will get a simpler graded set of lessons to help you master the cumulative sentence structure. This is a college level course, and the professor has to present a complete background in order to make it academic, but the 123 website, on the other hand, offers a simpler road to the treasure,The brilliance of this book is in the details, and details are perfect for the writer-philosopher. Please do not rush through the lessons, but instead, take one at a time, then master the concepts, and then move on to the next lesson. That is my opinion on how to best gain from this audible book. Have paper and pen at hand.

    27 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia 09-26-13
    Cynthia 09-26-13
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    "Very well presented... but with poor pronunciation"
    What made the experience of listening to Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft the most enjoyable?

    I enjoyed the presentation of the information in easily absorbed 30+ minute chapters, Mr Landon has a wonderful presence and effectively introduces the subject matter with humor and intelligent simplicity.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft?

    By breaking down, and then rebuilding well known and well written sentences, it allows you to perceive the structures involved, giving it the sense that I too could someday write!


    Any additional comments?

    The only problem concerning this lecture, is the man needs tutoring on pronunciation. Listening to him say 'senences' instead of 'sentences' repeatedly, put my teeth on edge. This was the subject of the ENTIRE lecture, and he couldn't find the 'T' within the word! Once you have latched onto such a glaring mispronunciation, you discover yourself finding more, especially when the word 'senence' is used well over a thousand times during the lecture. I understand there are many out there who will consider this nit-picking to the extreme, and many will have not even noticed, but imagine reading a book where all of the 'r's' have been omitted, it is not that much different.
    A means to purchase the notes mentioned would be nice as well.

    36 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tyler 11-17-13
    Tyler 11-17-13
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    "Has some valuable information, but it felt a bit l"
    If you could sum up Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft in three words, what would they be?

    Detail, extension, and retooling.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting aspect of this lecture series is probably its initial focus on extending your sentences. It goes into great detail on the subject, and really gets you thinking about how to approach each sentence you write. Not really a huge revelation, but still really interesting, and probably something you never thought too much about.

    As for the least interesting part, well that would probably be the fact that its just too long. In the second half things start to get less and less interesting, to the point where I just zoned out and stopped really paying attention.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Some people just have a natural talent for captivating an audiences attention, and professors are generally not in that camp. He did an ok job. I'm not really sure he could have done anything to make it better.


    What did you learn from Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft that you would use in your daily life?

    Probably nothing, that is to say unless you're a writer or have a passions for writing. I guess if you wanted to explore or expand upon your writing this may have same daily use value, but I think its more directed at people who like to write stories and what not.


    Any additional comments?

    If your interested in writing give it a go, you'll probably get something valuable out of it.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sebastien Daoust Montreal, Canada 02-13-14
    Sebastien Daoust Montreal, Canada 02-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent for "would be" authors"
    What made the experience of listening to Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft the most enjoyable?

    It's an excellent for people who like to write, but never had the chance to actually study this craft at a college/university level. Even as a non-native english speaker, I found the class easily understandable, and most of the examples given by the teacher were clear and easy to grasp.


    What other book might you compare Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft to and why?

    First class-type for me. Wouldn't know.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Brooks Landon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    It's a class. But I guess the class is divided into two main parts. The first one, more easily to catch, takes about half of the class, and teaches about cumulative sentences. It's an excellent introduction, though perhaps it's a little bit long.

    The second part is an amalgamation of different styles, which might not always have a logical line to follow. Despite that, the rich examples of the professor helps the student understand many subtleties.


    Any additional comments?

    I had bought this class in a video format at first, and couldn't find the patience to actually sit down and simply watch.

    The audio version, if you have a long road to travel, or an easy mindless commute, is perfect. You might be missing some of the more graphical elements (for example, the different sentences levels), but in general, it's easy to understand. You do need to focus, however, so if you're the type of person to easily let your mind wander by driving, for example, this might not be for you.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris PA 10-05-13
    Chris PA 10-05-13 Member Since 2016
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    "Too many words. Not enough Ts."
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brooks Landon?

    The professor talks too much. Without a course book, I found it difficult to follow him when he cited examples on building longer sentences. Oh yeah, he consistently mispronounced the word sentence as senence or sinence. It drove me up the freakin' wall.No, I wouldn't try another course with this professor.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Learn to explain his topic concisely. The prof. expressed his misgivings about The Elements of Style, a manual which teaches concise writing. He should revisit this book.


    Do you think Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    It needs a substitute course on the same subject with a different prof.


    20 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zachary L Weintraub 12-29-15
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    "30 minutes of material in 12 hours"
    Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Brooks Landon’s performances?

    Professor Landon is seemingly unable to express ideas without also fully exploring every possible permutation that follows logically from his original proposition. Though this is occasionally useful, more often this strategy treats the listener as if he or she is incapable of making simple logical connections. Moreover, lover of long sentences as he may be, Professor Landon uses unnecessarily long sentences for his examples when short sentences would do just as well to illustrate his points. This is compounded when he repeats those sentences ad nauseum with only minor variations to illustrate other points.

    Add to this his issues with pronunciations detailed by other reviewers, his laughing at private moments of wit which are rarely as clever as he frames them to be, his clear personal interest in certain types of sentences, and his long digressions into topics wholly unrelated to the lecture material meant to illustrate a point that is itself unnecessary to convey the thrust of his lecture, and you get a nearly unlistenable series. Having made the commitment in time and audible credits, and being very interested in what is ostensibly covered by this series, I have suffered through 7 hours thus far, but I'm wondering more with each lecture if my time wouldn't be better spent cutting my losses and finding a better series.

    Needless to say, I will never be trying another of Professor Landon's performances.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft?

    Through 14 lectures, I believe there was been enough content to fill perhaps two 30-minute blocks. Probably a third of each lecture is filled with re-readings of sentences already given with minor variations. Cutting these sentences down by removing half of the unnecessary clauses would save no less than 5 minutes per session all on its own.

    The series is also filled with digressions that serve no purpose relevant to the material. One example that comes to mind, though there are many spread throughout, came when, in a lecture on the riddle of prose rhythm, Professor Landon discusses a song from the musical Roberta, explains that he continually misremembers the title/main lyric of the song "I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me," talks about how Fred Astaire notably could dance and how his misremembering the lyrics perhaps relates to an episode from the Muppet Show with Ms. Piggy, how the original lyrics were rewritten once upon time, and that the rest of the lyrics in the song go on to discuss other reasons for the Astaire character to not dance. The purpose of this 2+ minute digression, as explained by Professor Landon, is simply to preface his statement that he himself can't dance, aside from shuffling around at bat mitzvahs and the like. Of course, this was also in purpose of explaining that, though he can't dance, he does have a good ear for rhythm in sentences.

    Now, if anyone believes that rhythm in dancing and rhythm in sentences are one and the same, a proposition that is fairly unlikely for an audience that seeks out a lecture series on exploring the writer's craft, Professor Landon could have dispelled that idea by simply stating "Rhythm in sentences and rhythm in dance are different," and perhaps giving some examples of how, without costing the listener 3 minutes of nonsense.

    Of course, at this point, the listener still has no actual information about what makes for a rhythmically pleasing or functional sentence. The rest of the lecture does little to change that. By the conclusion, all that I was able to ascertain is that the cumulative sentence tends to lead to pleasing rhythms, something that Professor Landon had already hammered on for the preceding twelve hours.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Barry
    Warrington, United Kingdom
    3/1/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "If you learn through Repetition then this for you"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The content - make it snappy, it seems as if the authors want to make books longer as well as sentences.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Nothing really


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Not the narrator as much as the looped clap tape


    Could you see Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Aimed at at 14 to 15 year olds

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • sin sin minkin
    the future
    1/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Poor advice"

    There are some decent hints in here but overall he hits the same wring headed nail so many times I could stand it no longer.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Dottie
    4/9/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "How to write a sennanse!"

    I have arrived at chapter 8; I feel this is an achievement. A pretty hefty achievement because the narrator is punching my brain with side swipes in his pronunciation.

    The word is sentence so why does he insist on pronouncing it as SENNANSE?

    My head hurts!

    Otherwise, pretty good.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • mel
    9/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very good"
    What did you like most about Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft?

    It goes to the nuts and bolts of building a sentence.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There was none.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Brooks Landon – was your favourite?

    Himself


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    Well worth listening to.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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