Our First Rule is: Don’t Edit Sentences on Your First Draft.
Relax. Let your ideas flow. Discover the joy of putting your thoughts and feelings on a blank page. Let that spark of inspiration ignite. Don’t throw water on your inspiration by worrying about grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure.
When you first write, focus your energy on your characters and your story. There will be time later for editing. Great writing doesn’t happen all at once. Let your heart and mind come together.
You can’t write from your soul if you are constantly stopping to edit your grammar.
Write something meaningful from that beautiful, magical place that exists inside you.
Let’s Chat for a minute before we get into the eight ways to edit sentences.
Only after you have completed your chapter, scene, or manuscript should you be concerned about the details of your writing.
You want your ideas presented in beauty and strength. You’re looking for words which stir and strike the mark.
Creative writing is both an art and a science. The art comes from your heart. The science of creative writing can be learned.
For your story to leave a lasting impact you need to develop good writing skills. Good writing skills is what this post is about.
A writer who knows their craft will take an interesting story and make it magical, and memorable.
Here are the First Two Tricks to Edit Sentences
Tip #1: What to do with the Words ‘That’ and ‘Which’ When You Edit Sentences.
Remove these words when possible. The fact is; most of the time they are not necessary.
If that or which refers to people, change the word to who or whom.
Example: She picked up the book that was on the table.
Better: She took the book from the table.
Example: Ryan saw the boat which was in the harbor.
Better: Ryan saw the boat in the harbor.
Example: I think Sarah was the girl that was in the picture.
Better: I think Sarah was the girl who was in the picture.
Best: I think Sarah was the girl in the picture.
Tip #2: The Second thing to Look for When you Edit Sentences
Starting a sentence with ‘there is, there are or there were, creates a passive sentence.
We want every sentence to have power. So, try rewording the sentence to add vitality.
Example: There were strange men milling around the yard,
Better: Strange men milled around the yard.
Example: There is a bomb in the school
Better: A bomb is in the school.
Example: There are thieves lurking behind the counter.
Better: Thieves are lurking behind the counter.
When editing sentences try to make them stronger . Strong Sentences are more exciting to read.
Tip #3: Strengthen Your Verbs When You Edit Sentences
Since you are taking the time to read this, we know you want to be a better writer.
Strong, active verbs can make your story more vivid and alive. Take time to look for the best verbs while you are editing. Power verbs create powerful sentences.
Download our exclusive subscriber sheet sheet of ACTIVE POWER VERBS
Verbs probably have the greatest impact on your writing. For this reason, you want to take time improving your verbs. Search for the most forceful way to write each sentence.
Here’s another tip.
Don’t weaken your verbs with unnecessary adders like to, be, has, was, have, or had.
Let me give you some examples:
- Going to carry. Change to carrying.
- Was carrying. Change to carried.
- Had been held Change to Imprisoned
- Was Running Change to Scurried
- Had been shown Change to was shown
- Trying to Change to endeavored
Tip #4: When Editing Sentences Eliminate Redundant Words and phrases.
Redundant means you have said the same thing twice. Your sentences will have greater impact without the repeated words.
See a List of 168 Redundant Phrases You Might Not Think Redundant.
It will take practice to learn to recognize when you have repeated the same idea.
Let’s look at some examples.
- And then. Change to then.
- Blue color. Change to blue
- Square shape. Change to square.
- Crystal clear Change to Clear
In these examples, you do not need both words.
What is a Standard Sentence?
Tip #5: Rewrite Using Standard Sentence Structure
The strongest sentences start with a noun followed by an action verb. You want your sentences to convey energy. Standard sentence structure helps do that.
Standard sentences are the best way to add strength and vigor to your writing.
What do you think of this series of sentences?
George jumped in front of the car.
The driver shouted.
The driver leaped from the car with fists clenched.
Strong sentence structure will especially improve your action scenes.
Tip #6: Reword Negative Phrases, When You Edit Sentences.
Negative sentences can confuse your reader. The reader may have to read the sentence a second time to be sure of the meaning.
This is a simple way to improve your writing.
Example: Negative – Don’t mix tenses within your manuscript.
Positive – Keep the same tense throughout your manuscript.
Example: Negative – No one was in the room except the secretary.
Positive – The secretary was the only one in the room.
Two More Tricks to Edit Sentences
Tip #7: Eliminate Clichés, Except in Dialog.
A cliché is a phrase people say frequently.
Clichés are a natural part of speech. We want our dialog to sound like it is spoken by real people. Real people use clichés when they speak. So, clichés are OK in dialog.
Try to not use clichés in you’re narrative. Clichés tend to bore readers. After all, they have heard them so many times before.
Use your imagination to create your own unique phrases in your narrative.
Examples of clichés:
- Talking to a brick wall
- A leap of faith.
- Green with envy
- Cold as ice.
- Time heals all wounds
- Read between the lines
Editing and creating your own ingenious phrases should be fun.
Tip #8: Avoid Starting Sentences with Prepositions. (Especially in Action Scenes)
Sentences starting with prepositions are usually passive. You want strong active sentences to keep your readers enthralled.
Passive sentences lack vitality. So, invigorate your writing by rewriting sentences starting with prepositions.
See our article: Prepositions are confusing for a list of prepositions.
Example: As I was watching, the picture changed.
Better: I saw the picture change.
Best: The picture changed.
You might be tempted to add “Suddenly” or “Now”, but your character is looking at the picture. “Suddenly” or “Now” is implied and not needed. “Now” or “suddenly” would be redundant.
We hope you are always striving to find better ways to express yourself.
Great sentences don’t advertise the work that went into them.
In the final analysis, each chapter, each scene, is made up of individual sentences. If you strengthen your sentences, you strengthen the whole story.
These eight tips should help you fine tune your creative writing. We hope these tips will one day become a natural part of your writing. Not something you must go back and correct..
You don’t have to learn everything about writing all at once. Give yourself time to get there. With practice you can become masterful. Practice will expand your abilities.
For additional help editing, check out these websites:
Google docs is a smart editing and styling tool to help format your book or short story. www.google.com/docs/about/
Hemingway editor is an app that makes your writing clearer. It automatically highlights sentences that may be confusing or unnecessary. It will also offer suggestions about how to fix them www.hemingwayapp.com
Grammarly helps you find and correct 10 times more mistakes than your word processor. Grammarly can help you find the perfect replacement word with context optimization and synonym suggestions. www.grammarly.com
John & Patty
For more ideas about self-editing sentences