A few weeks ago, I taught two grammar seminars to aspiring novelists at the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena. The first session was all about the little stuff: lay and lie, commas, and how to avoid the small-but-serious mistakes that can make a writer look bad to an agent or acquisitions editor.
The second day we took on sentence craft, everything from passives to dangling participles.
I spent hours preparing the sessions and hours more at the head of a conference room passing the information along. But by the time I was done, I realized that the single most important lesson I could offer to writers boiled down to just two words: main clause.
Contrary to popular belief, grammar isn’t just about dodging the slings and arrows of some cruel stickler’s red pen. Grammar is about writing. It’s about understanding how to convey ideas and information. The vehicles that do this, of course, are sentences. At the very heart of every sentence is at least one main clause. And that’s the very place where so many writers go wrong.