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Editing Your Book’s Sentence Structure

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I’m currently in the process of editing the first draft of my book. While it feels great to be finished writing, I find myself amazed at the massive amount of editing and rewriting I still need to do. I read somewhere that some writers edit their book over eight times, and that made me feel much better. I absolutely see just how essential not rushing this step is.

I think writers are sometimes blind to their own weak sentence structure. Or they are so burnt out from writing in general, that they do see their errors, but they don’t have any ideas on how to fix them. I have found that having some one else to proofread your writing really helps.

I finally let my husband read the first two chapters of my book and his feedback was so helpful. One thing he pointed out was that I tend to start off my sentences the same way. This was killing the ‘effortless reading’ experience I hoped someone would have when they read my writing.  

It might be because when I wrote my first draft, I just spit the story in my head out on the paper and didn’t edit. This made the story came out a bit like, this happened, then this happened, then this happened, etc. Yuck, but totally fixable with a round of editing.

But it also could be because I am writing in third person narrative. I feel like writing in third person lends itself to describe lots of external cues because the reader does not hear the constant stream of thoughts in the character’s head. So without noticing it, I was using the same phrases to start out my sentences and describe the scene. Again, fixable.

Now that I’m aware of this, I am going to dedicate a lot of time in polishing up my sentence structure. I know that all beautiful and effortless sentences rarely happen the first time around. There is a lot of editing behind the scenes for every writer—not just me.

I also found a great resource with lots of tips on making sentences better. This article by Jodie Renner points out where sentences go wrong and gives great examples on how to fix them. Here is a quick example:

~ Rearrange the ideas for a more sophisticated feel:

Before:

His headlights found the driveway leading to the rear of the duplex. He parked in the darkness. He closed the car door carefully after him. He drew his gun. He was relieved to see no lights in the windows. He walked quietly up the path to the back door.

After:

His headlights found the driveway leading to the rear of the duplex. He drove around, then parked in the darkness. Closing the car door carefully after him, he drew his gun and crept forward. As he walked quietly up the path to the back deck, he was relieved to see no lights in the windows.

Obviously, the second paragraph moves us along faster and is much easier to read. There are a lot more examples in the article and is really worth reading through. If you need more help, she also has a writing book, Fire up Your Fiction: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories on Amazon.

So, the lesson is: don’t get down on yourself for having lots of errors in your first draft. Most people do. Some people even let this keep them from writing—but it shouldn’t. Everyone writes crapy first drafts—the trick is to polish them up until they shine.

 

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