Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday's Writer's Tip - More on Revision

Questions to ask as you begin revisions. I really like questions and since I've been writing for a long time, many of these questions are in my automatic file, but a review is always good.

1. Am I saying what I meant to say? Find a good grammar book like Elements of Style. Many years ago, I read this book several times. Some of it may seem outdated but it really help when revising. Bad grammar will turn a reader off.

Do the choices of words work for the story? Sometimes finding a fresher way to say those words helps bring a reader to attention. We all know about cliches and they're so easy to slip into what we write we may not notice them when getting the story on the paper. Somewhere on my shelves I have a book of cliches and sometimes refer to it. Using a wrod wrong can set a reader to put the book aside. Often this is caused by two words sounding alike but being spelled differently.

3. Can I be more specific? Calling a car by a brand name may not always work since some companies don't like you to do this, but there's a difference between a sleek sports car and a rattle-trap truck. Choosing this kind of specific description can give a good hint about more than just the word. This can tell you a bit about a character of the words. The moss draped trees in a swamp are different from stately pines. So try to be specific.

4. Have my sentences fallen into a pattern? Are they all the same length. Do they start with the same word. If the rhythm becomes predictable the reader will fall asleep. Remember Variety in sentence length and opening word makes the story flow.

4. Now we come to what I often think of as runaway sentences. Those that while grammatically correct go for line after line until the end is reached and the reader has to go back and read again and again to find what the writer is trying to say.

5. What about paragraphs. When reading books written long ago I've come across paragraphs that go on for pages. The tendency of readers is the skip these or spot read. So breaking long paragraphs can help keep a reader reading.

6. Are there ways to cut down on words and phrases? There are . A reader doesn't like to read about every step on the way or a list of every thing the person ate at a meal. Learn to cut these down the the important points and get the character from one place to another or from one action to another without writing a travelogue.

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