Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z Challenge: S is for Sentence Variation

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

S is for Sentence Variation

Sometimes when I'm in the zone and am just flying through the first draft of a scene, I can really get into a rut with my sentence structure. It's the kind of thing I don't usually notice until my critique group starts highlighting words.

The most common sentence structure we talk about is "Noun verb ..." But you don't want sixteen sentences in a row that start with "He/She did something."

Again, you probably won't notice this on your own. This is where editors and critquers come in majorly handy. And it's a super easy fix. 


Vapid sentence structure: 
Jane pressed the button on her keyless entry. She heard the locks pop. Then she heard a noise and turned to look behind her. She could see someone hiding between the cars two rows over. She was afraid. Moving quickly, she swung her car door open, dove in, and hit the power-lock.
Charismatic Sentence Structure:
Jane pressed the button on her keyless entry and heard the locks pop. Just then, a soft noise from somewhere behind her made her turn. Someone was hiding between cars two rows over. Heart pounding, she swung open her car door, dove in, and hit the power-lock.
Notice how the first time, nearly every sentence began with "She verb..." By changing up the sentences in the second paragraph, only two sentences begin that way. With the others, the object became the subject. Using a range of sentences this way naturally tightens your writing, makes it less choppy and much easier to read.

How do you vary your sentence structure?


  1. I have a problem where too many of my sentences begin with the object. I find reading the text out loud (or at least under my breath) makes awkward repetition obvious.

  2. I try to watch for that as well and vary it up so the sentences don't all start with 'he' or a name.

    1. Me too! It's definitely a problem I have to watch for on my first drafts. :)

  3. I hate repetition of sentences. Usually this happens when I have more than two people involved in a conversation. I've been having problems thinking of new ways to make sure the identity of who is saying what is done properly.
    This makes me cringe,
    "blah blah blah," Jack said.
    "blah blah blah," Janet replied.
    "blah blah blah," Billy added.

    1. Yeah I'm the same way. I tend to have groups of characters in my books and tagging dialogue without repetition is definitely a challenge. ;)

  4. That's a good point Liesel and it is pretty vapid.

  5. I get stuck sometimes writing vs writing without editing while I'm doing so, which slows down the whole process. But when I notice a pattern repeating itself, I will go and try to mix things up. I have a lot of unnecessary punctuation, especially a dash "-". If I notice too many names or related pronouns in a row, I'll go and switch a couple to change the cadence.

    1. I do the same thing! I WAY overuse the em dash. My critique group is always getting after me for it. LOL. I'm also notorious for using too similar names in the same piece of writing. It's like I get in a rut for names that start with the same letter, but I never notice until it's almost too late. Good for you for catching these things early! :D