Woo, so now that I got my whole BRAIN BLEARGH thing out of my system in the last post, I'm feeling a lot better. Thanks to all of you for your supportive words, they were very much appreciated!
Today is a quick 'n dirty writing tip about varying your sentence structure.
When we write first drafts (or "starter" drafts), most of the time we're just trying to get the basic form of the story down on paper. If you're a pantser, your first draft might end up more like an outline than a novel, and that's okay. It's all part of your individual writing process.
What most of us don't worry about during that initial drafting process is the exact phrasing or structure that we'll end up with in the final draft. Since the first draft is all about taking the idea and getting it out, we just write whatever comes to mind. So long as we put the ideas down, we're good. Afterwards, we go back through and do rewrites and grand-scale edits and all that other fun stuff. And then we get down to line-editing, polishing, and smoothing. Part of that smoothing involves varying our sentence structure.
Have you ever read a novel excerpt that feels monotonous or boring? It may be the content, but it may also be that the sentences are structured the exact same way. Too many short bursts, or long multi-comma phrases, or lists, or conjunctions, or whatever. They may also start the same way, like this:
I jumped at the sound of a creak at the door. I crept slowly toward it and listened carefully. I placed my hand against the wood and reached for the knob. I knew then that I wasn't alone.
Repetitive sentences and paragraphs like these can make a reader's eyes blur. They start skimming because they become used to the structure and think they know what's coming. You want to avoid that. Varying your sentence structure mixes it up and makes the reader have to think about what they're reading.
CRASH. My heart hammered in my throat, making it ache with every beat. Something was out there. The floorboards sighed under my feet as I crept toward the door. I reached for the knob and stifled a gasp. It was freezing cold.
Not perfect, but much more interesting than the first example. All you have to do is watch for repeated words, sentences starting with the same word or phrase, or multiple sentences that are roughly the same length or structure. Then change them up!
Just one of the many ways to keep a reader's interest. What other methods do you recommend?