Posted in Craft of writing, Revision, Writing exercises

Edit your own Writing

Are you ever in a crunch when you don’t have time for your writing group to critique your work? Working on your own and your client says your work sounds too repetitious? Wish you could see the problems in your own work that you see in other’s? Then this post is a first step for you.

Editing your own writing—to find the problems and develop solutions for them—is work. Often, revision is not considered the fun part of writing, but it can be when we see the results of our hard-won success.

While teaching a writing course this month, I have included an assessment of our sentence structures. This will help us see the multiple ways we start sentences and how we can add variety to our sentences and paragraphs to improve readability.

I decided to apply the assignment for my students to my own work as an illustration. When I did that, I saw my example essay still needed revision. So I went to work to get it ready for submission to publications.

Let me offer the assignment and then two paragraphs from my illustrative essay. One paragraph is varied, so I will not make changes; on the other hand, the second one needs work.

ASSIGNMENT

Analyze each paragraph in your story to see if your sentences start in a variety of ways to create interest for the reader.

  1. Subject-verb structure. EX. He walked away. She ran to town.
  2. Prepositional phrase. EX. For too long, we’ve put up with this. With that said, I left.
  3. Transition word. EX. However, I concede. Subsequently, the lady gave in. 
  4. Gerund or “-ing” word. EX. Hunting for shoes, I found a new dress.
  5. Conjunction phrases. EX. While shopping for shoes, I found a dress. Because life is difficult, we stumble on.
  6. Incomplete sentences. EX. Right on time. Never again. For the cause.

EXAMPLE #1 FROM MY OWN WORK

This paragraph is taken from a story when I was fifteen-years-old, trying to find the right souvenir to take home to my mother from my first trip abroad.

Finally, my eyes land on world globes. One would mean a lot to Mom because we study missions at church. Like her, I enjoy learning geography by studying the world map and learning about other cultures by reading about missionaries in other countries. Mom has rarely been outside of Arkansas—me either until now.

Assessment of sentence variety for purposes of revision (3 of the 6 types of sentence starts)

  • Sentence #1 Transition word or phrase
  • Sentence #2 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #3 Conjunction word or phrase
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb

EXAMPLE #2 FROM MY OWN WORK

The following paragraph also is taken from the same story.

Some globes stand on the floor; others sit on tabletops. The globes look like they were made from old-world parchment, like expensive antiques. The wooden stand in which one sets would suit our house—and Mother. She will smile when she pulls it out of the box and exclaims, “I love it.”

Analysis (1 of the six ways to start sentences–pretty boring)

  • Sentence #1 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #2 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #3 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb

REVISION ON EXAMPLE #2

There are infinite ways to make the revisions, but here is one attempt to add variety to my sentence structures in a single paragraph.

While a few globes stand on the floor; others sit on tabletops. Leaning toward the latter, I like the ones that have an old-fashioned, weathered look. The maple wood frame in which one sits would suit our house. And suit Mother. I can imagine her opening it. After prying open the box, she’ll pull it out and look at me to exclaim, “I love it.”

Assessment of sentence variety (5 of the 6 types of sentence starts–and less boring)

  • Sentence #1 Conjunction
  • Sentence #2 Gerund (-ing word)
  • Sentence #3 Incomplete sentence
  • Sentence #4 Subject/verb
  • Sentence #5 Preposition

 

That’s the fun of revision, to make your writing easier to read for your audience.