Generic descriptions and recurring sentence structures lead to a rather boring read. Editing with a focus on more interesting word choices and sentence structures can improve your writing and make it shine.
Are you a member of the grammar police? One of those gifted few able to spot a split-infinitive a mile away? Perhaps you’ve heard time and time again how you should be a writer because you’re so gifted with words. And you’ve listened, because you have not only a gift flair for grammar, but a great story to tell. Combining the two is a natural fit. But once you sit down to write the great American novel, something happens. The words, carefully crafted and meticulously correct, don’t seem to work. There’s something missing in your prose.
There’s a difference between writing a correct sentence and a crafting a compelling sentence. It’s what makes the editing process so powerful. Identifying and then refining your work can improve your writing and transform a good story into a great novel.
Let’s take look at this short paragraph:
Boring: John walked to the store. He bought a carton of milk and a frozen pizza. He saw Mary in the checkout line.
In the drafting stage, it’s easy to fall into the same patterns – especially when it comes to starting a sentence with a pronoun (he, she, it, they, and so on) or a character name. That quickly becomes stale and boring. Good writing has variety, a mix of sentence structures that keep prose lively and interesting.
Better: John walked to the store to buy a carton of milk and a frozen pizza. The checkouts were crowded, but he spotted his friend Mary in the last line and wheeled his cart over to talk to her.
A funny thing happened when I revised that paragraph: Changing the sentence structure forced me to add more detail. That, plus the variation in the sentence constructions, makes the paragraph much more interesting to read. And that’s what it’s all about – keeping our writing lively and our readers interested.
Here’s another example, with a focus on word choice:
As writers, it’s our job to create a vivid, detailed world for our readers. But that won’t happen if you have boring, generic descriptions in your manuscript. Generic descriptions are fuzzy, ambiguous words – words like:
What’s wrong with this sentence?
Boring: Nick watched Katie walk across the grass, thinking how pretty she looked.
This sentence tells us nothing about how Katie actually looks and uses a generic description, “pretty,” to describe Katie.
Better: Nick watched Katie walk across the grass, admiring her long, dark hair, her pink cheeks, and the sparkle in her blue eyes.
By replacing the generic description with a few specifics, the writing immediately has more pizzazz and the scene becomes clearer for the reader.
Image of spice rack via ShutterStock.com.
Want to learn more about the power of fine-tuning your sentences to improve your writing? Join BookBaby and Jocelyn Pruemer (AutoCrit) on Wednesday, October 21 at 4 pm ET for a special Twitter Q&A where we’ll talk about the best ways to find the weaknesses in your writing and how to fix them. To be notified about our upcoming chats, sign up here.
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