Some guidelines for revision

Don’t burden a sentence with more adjectives than are absolutely necessary. It makes them hard to swallow, like taking too big a bite of food. (“Heinrich’s oversize, powerful-looking megaphone’s ear-splitting roar would surely get those innocent, unsuspecting, dwarfish patrons off their tiny tushes.”)

Use simile sparingly, because it can make you sound like a 1940’s detective. (Unless, of course, your narrator is a 1940’s detective.) “Juanita was shorter than a Tijuana lap dance, hot as a Mexican sidewalk, and cool as a virgin mojito.”

Be open to changing paragraph sentence order. During the first draft, I often begin a paragraph without knowing where it’s going, and only discover its theme and “thesis statement” later. So don’t be surprised, when revising, to discover that many paragraphs’ final sentences would work better at the top.

Avoid too many initial personal pronouns. If you have three or more sentences in a row beginning with I or She, etc., it might look awkward to your readers. Fix this by rearranging some of the sentences so they begin with their subordinate clauses. E.g., change “She left after Flaco did that thing with his trombone,” to “After Flaco did that thing with his trombone, she left.”

Don’t use a participial phrase to begin a sentence unless the action in the phrase occurs simultaneously with the action in the main clause.

            Right: “Holding her breath, Brenda opened the ancient jar of pickles.”

            Wrong: “Pulling a handful of rubber balls from his pocket, Heinrich tossed them onto the shadowy dance floor.” Why is it wrong? Because this wording implies that Heinrich took the balls out of his pocket at exactly the same time that he threw them, which is impossible. The actions are sequential, not simultaneous. A better construction would be “Heinrich pulled a handful of rubber balls from his pocket and tossed them onto the shadowy dance floor.”

Don’t use participial phrases to begin consecutive sentences, because they create a clumsy rhythm. For example: ‘Crashing through the club doors, Granny Lupita assaulted the bouncer’s kneecaps. Shouting over the ghastly dance music, she yelled, “It’s the end of the world!” Screaming, the patrons ran for the exits, the restrooms, and the go-go cages.’

Don’t overuse words narration verbs like realize, watch, felt, knew, and saw. It’s usually better to give readers the action directly instead of telling them the narrator’s relationship to the action. Direct action has more impact. For example:

– Instead of writing, “I watched the dogs and monkeys fighting over the last unbroken bottle of Cutty Sark,” consider, “The dogs and monkeys were fighting over the last unbroken bottle of Cutty Sark.”

– Instead of, “I realized that my chances of taking the waitress home were as dead as she was,” write, “My chances of taking the waitress home were as dead as she was.”

– “The worst was yet to come: dealing with the insurance company,” is better than “Juanita knew the worst was yet to come: dealing with the insurance company.”

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