Writing Tip #19

Vary your sentence structure. The first time I revised Baby Grand, last fall, one of my biggest complaints with my writing was probably with sentence structure. While working on the rough draft, we’re so concerned (as we should be) with getting it all down — plot details, etc. — that we can forget to do it in a way that is interesting to read. Think of your writing as a piece of music: If it contains notes that are played over and over the same way, it can be monotonous to listen to. Similarly, with the written word, it’s important to mix up your writing with a variety of sentences that help change the cadence and emphasis of your words. A quick primer:

Simple sentence: Has one independent clause

Dina has written a novel.

Compound sentence: Has two independent clauses joined by a semi-colon, coordinating conjunction or conjunctive adverb

Dina has written a novel; she has yet to find a publisher.

Complex sentence: Has one dependent clause joined to an independent clause

Although she is a journalist, Dina has written a novel; she has yet to find a publisher.

Using all types of sentences — apart from the plot or whatever it is you’re trying to say — will help enliven and enrich your writing. It’s something you should keep in mind while you revise your manuscript. (Remember, the revision process is the place for worrying about this stuff. While writing, just get it all down — you can adjust sentence structure later.) Also, keep in mind that a complex sentence isn’t always best when a simple one will do just fine.


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