In today’s Behind the Rewrite, Brenda Whiteside talks about one of the last—but most important—aspects of the editing process: varying boring sentence structure. She shares a before-and-after excerpt from her novel Southwest of Love and Murder, book two in a five-book series. Read Brenda’s line editing insights below.
When I write a scene, the first concern is to get it out of my head and onto the page. I “see” all of the pieces and parts simultaneously: the setting, action, and dialogue. There will be several passes at the scene in the editing process because although I can clearly see all those pieces and parts, translating to the page takes some prodding.
One of the most common edits I make, and one of the last, is sentence structure. The easiest way to get it written is a flow of character-does-this and then-character-does-that. Stagnant sentence structure can bore a reader even with the best plot line.
Take a look at the paragraph below. Of the fourteen sentences making up the paragraph, I began nine of the sentences with a character pronoun and an action. FYI—there are no names because the POV character is spying and doesn’t know the names. POV character is a not too smart, not too educated villain.
He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened. He scrunched lower, although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he painted it black. See how things work out? He peeked through the steering wheel. A man and a woman stepped out onto the porch. A tiny, dark haired woman gave the older man a kiss. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed but stopped at the bottom. Looked like she waved him off and continued on to the edge of the front drive, where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. She swung up onto the horse like damned Calamity Jane. She waved and rode into the night, toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up. Interesting.
Mixing up the sentence structure by combining sentences and beginning the sentence with the action instead of the subject makes it a much more enjoyable read.
He started his car but turned the engine off when a light came on over the front door as it opened, then scrunched lower although he didn’t need to. His black car made him part of the dark prairie. Good thing he’d painted it black. See how things work out? Peeking through the steering wheel gave him the view of a man and a woman stepping out onto the porch. The tiny, dark haired woman kissed the old man. She descended the steps, and the old guy followed. Her hand went up, stopping him at the bottom, and she continued on to the edge of the front drive where a horse stood tied to a rail like in a TV western. Her leg swung up onto the horse as if she was damned Calamity Jane. With a wave, she rode into the night toward a light. Looked like maybe another house in the distance. The old guy watched until the night ate her up.
Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?
Writing murder mysteries is all in a day’s work until an obsessed fan brings Phoebe’s stories to life. Successful mystery writer, Phoebe Anderson, killed her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier. Now, someone has actually done it. Mason Meadowlark is happy with his wild cowboy ways, avoiding love since the death of his baby and his marriage twenty years ago until Phoebe shows up. With an obsessed fan close on her heels, Phoebe is thrown into her own murder mystery…and the next target on his list is Mason.
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More About Brenda
Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart, splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense.
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Opportunities For Writers
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Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips
Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.
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Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.
Stacy Juba, the founder of Shortcuts for Writers, is a freelance editor and online course creator who teaches authors how to simplify the self-editing process and fit their writing goals into a busy life. Her books include the Storybook Valley chick lit series and the Hockey Rivals young adult sports novels.
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