Sometimes, I’m writing away and suddenly become stuck on a sentence that I can’t quite seem to get right. If I’m in the first stages of writing, I try to get the idea down, knowing I can come back to it during revision.
If I’m revising, there is a writing exercise that I use to help me fix sentences that just aren’t working. This writing prompt helps me realize that sometimes my sentences are too long. Sometimes it helps me realize that a sentence is too short.
When I am struggling to get a sentence just right, I experiment with sentence length.
Writing Prompt: Experiment with Sentence Length
The first thing I do is go through my WIP and find sentences that aren’t conveying the emotion I want. Or sentences that aren’t moving the plot along. Any sentence that isn’t working the way I want it to. I try to pick 5-10 sentences at a time. I don’t want to overwhelm myself and feel like the task is impossible.
If the sentence is long, try and make it several shorter sentences.
If the sentence is short, see if it can become a longer sentence. Can you combine it with the preceding or following sentence? Is there missing information that would make the sentence longer and better?
Sometimes a sentence doesn’t work because it’s one short sentence or one long sentence too many. Too many sentences of the same length too close to each other will create a monotonous feeling to your story. If you find a slew of long sentences or a cluster of short sentences, that can be another place to experiment with sentence length. It’s important to vary sentence length.
What happens if you make a long sentence short, or a short sentence long and still don’t like it? You can get even pickier and play around with word choice. But sometimes, you need to consider deleting the sentence. If you have a hard time deleting your writing, simply cut and copy it into a separate document. That way you will always have it if you need to come back to it.
Experimenting with sentence length can be a great way to improve a sentence that isn’t working. It can also be a fun activity to keep you writing. So, if you’re struggling to write today or you have some sentences you don’t know how to fix, go experiment!
What are you waiting for? ?
How do you revise sentences that are not working?