I Wrote Naughty Fragments

After teaching essay composition college courses for the last 25 years around the country, I have found that this teaching can ruin my own fiction, if I’m not careful.  I currently am finishing up my latest novel, Too Late to the City, my 9/11 book.  And I found something quite intriguing during the process.  Stuck on page 50 for six months, then on page 100 for another four months, I decided to break paragraphs into sentences and to create more chapters.  In adding this white space to the novel, I also learned that I had been too essayistic in my prose, relying on complete sentences, no run-ons or fragments, when many creative books out there ignore the rules altogether.  So I decided to ignore the rules a bit and it gave the book breathing room.  I wrote naughty fragments.  Oooooo.  In the end it was seismic shift in my own style and the novel became better as a result.  I started by unpacking it at page 140 and realized I had stuffed a 250-page book into 140 pages.  The result was a return to an actual style that wasn’t teacherly anymore.  But after grading freshman intro essays all the time, the use of the fragment became anathema for even my own work.  It’s good to separate teaching writing from writing writing.  Naughty fragments.  Need to write more of them.

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