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FAST CLASS: Writing Your Story

Lesson 7 of 17

Diagramming the Sentence


FAST CLASS: Writing Your Story

Lesson 7 of 17

Diagramming the Sentence


Lesson Info

Diagramming the Sentence

This is one of my great thrills when we get to this point, Um ah, few people in this room are old enough to remember diagramming sentences in English class. They don't do it any more and more is. The pity is what I have to say. And this is not just about old fuddy duddy grammar. This is actually about identifying whether or not you're accomplishing what you're what you're trying to do in your writing. Whether your sentences are telling the story in the most powerful and dramatic way, and I'm going to begin with a sentence comes from a incidentally, I asked everybody's permission to use their sentences, and my students were very generous even when they didn't come across looking so great with the money. From my waitressing job, I bought a new car that my brother sold me for $500 when the car I used to drive burst into flames on the Pacific Coast Highway as I was driving to Los Angeles to escape my abusive husband, who came after me with a gun because I went to the movies with my girlfri...

end Caroline. Okay, if you've if you've ever diagram the sentence before. You know that where you start is with the subject and the verb. What's the subject of this sentence? I verb bought? Bought how? Wist the money. That's an adverb beall clause, I believe. Bought what car? What kind of a car? A new one. What kind of a car that my brother yeah, sold me way Could diagram all that phrase, But we won't, um, Sold me how? For $500. I really wanna have meat writing, but I don't think it's gonna happen. Um Uhh sold me. When? When? Uh, the car. What kind of car? I used to drive. Uhh. Did what? Car burst into flames. You may need a bigger white board. Where? On the Pacific Coast Highway. Oh, my God. We've got a whole lot more when burst into flames as I waas driving. Where to L. A, uh why to escape. Look how small the type is getting now. Um my husband husband. What kind of husband? Abusive. What kind of husband? Husband who came after me? Yeah, came after me. How? With a gun. Why? Because I went I'm getting desperate here to the movies, to the movies and then with Caroline. Okay. I have to stand back and look at that instantly. You see that? And you know there's trouble. What's the big news in this sentence? My husband came after me with a gun. Is that reflected in? I bought a car. I don't think so. Big news way down here. It's actually kind of beautiful. I regarded. It's so beautiful. You know, I'm a words person. I'm not a science person, but this, to me, is like some kind of chemical equation. I just love it za closest that I that I'm ever likely to come to something that's sort of an absolute diagramming a sentence. Okay, I have to do another one, because this is just so much fun. This is what I do in a home alone at night. E just can't resist sometimes E. Okay, I This is shorter. Okay? I had been blissfully and by choice, unemployed, except for random random writing and PR jobs for six years, raising Irish twins born 18 months apart after four years of infertility. Okay, what's the Senate's I mean, the subject. Sorry. I had been have been what unemployed so far does the Senate's tell us very much. No unemployed. How blissfully. And also by choice, um, unemployed Except proposition. I'll phrase for writing. Okay. And PR jobs. How long? Unemployed? 46 years Unemployed. Raising twins. What kind of twins? Irish. What? What else about them? Born 68. This is a little bit redundant. That's what Irish twins are. Keep that in mind. Born 18 months apart. Born when raising twins. Born after for years. Four years of what off? Infertility? Okay, big idea way down there. I had been unemployed. Doesn't begin to tell you. Oh, my gosh. I'm using my pointer. I get very e Get very excited when I die aground. Calm down. Okay, We have one more. It happens to the best of us. This kind of stuff. Well, not to me anymore. But I've been doing this a long time. Okay, um, my family wanted nothing to do with my growing concern that remaining married to this man who once gloried and teaching me how to write in reality I was learning on my own as reporters do was a nightmare. What's the subject of the sentence? Family verb is wanted. Wanted What? Nothing. What kind of nothing to do with what concern? What kind of concern growing you young people? Have you ever seen this before? I'm looking at you know, It's like from another planet. Isn't it great? I think you should ask for your money back from high school. Growing growing concern. Concern? What? That my that. This that. Oh, no, I'm sorry. That remaining married that remaining married. Married? How to this man? Yes. What kind of a man who once gloried? Uh, glory. And what? In teaching? I could make a joke about teaching to write, but actually, she's a good writer. This is why I wanna tell you you could be a good writer and do this stuff in teaching me to write on. Then she's got something kind of weird. In reality, I was learning on my own as reporters do. That's just off in the clouds in reality. Uh, okay. Um Waas man. What man? Waas A nightmare Remaining married. It was a nightmare. Look at all this stuff in the middle separating remaining married and was a nightmare. Need I say more? I don't think so. Thank you. Um, probably Once you've done this a little bit, you won't make these mistakes anymore. But every now and then, if you see a long sentence and it's and you think it's not working, do this and you'll see why and very likely you have hidden the big news in some very subsidiary place.

Class Description


Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)

Full-length class: Writing Your Story with Joyce Maynard

SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.

Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.

Celebrated journalist, novelist, and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.

Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description, and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection, and find an audience.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
  • Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
  • Decide on a point of view, a point of entry, and a structure.
  • Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
  • Stop worrying about being judged.
  • Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
  • Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph, and a story.
  • Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.


Robert Ellis

A wonderful introduction to writing memoir. Practical, moving, and wise. Joyce is an inspiration. I will definitely take the full course. Highly recommend.