Woo! Thanks to all my newfound bloggy-buddies, I have reached 200+ followers. To celebrate, I am giving away private CHAPTER CRITIQUES (17 pages max). There will be THREE WINNERS chosen. Alternately, if you don't wish to have a chapter critiqued, I will offer copies of JUNCTION 2020 (my YA light fantasy POD novel) for giveaway. Your choice. To enter:
1. Be a follower of this blog
2. Comment on THIS post by Tuesday, March 1 at midnight PST
3. Be sure to say "enter me" or the equivalent so I know you're interested and not just cruising by as part of the Crusade
4. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing and announced Wednesday, March 2
As a writer, you cannot produce strong writing without crafting strong sentences. Each sentence must do its share of work. The foundation of the sentence must be sound as well as the parts. Here are some (simple, basic) ways to make the strongest sentences possible:
1. Use Strong, Active Verbs
Verbs are words that provide the ACTION in a sentence, so weak verbs can make a sentence sag. Weak verbs include "was/were" constructions as well as bland or unspecific verbs.
Okay: She was wearing a two-piece navy suit.
Better: She wore a two-piece navy suit.
Okay: The most beautiful lamp she'd ever seen was on the end table by the couch.
Better: The most beautiful lamp she'd ever seen stood on the end table by the couch.
Best: The most beautiful lamp she'd ever seen graced the end table by the couch.
Okay: Holding back her tears, Molly walked from the auditorium.
Better: Holding back her tears, Molly dashed from the auditorium.
Okay: He sat down with a sigh.
Better: He flopped down with a sigh.
2. Omit 99% of all adverbs
Adverbs--which tell HOW, WHERE, WHEN, or WHY--are usually unimaginative and indicate Telling. They are also often paired with unimaginative verbs. Most but not all end in "ly."
Okay: "Get out of my room!" she said angrily.
Better: "Get out of my room!" she yelled, shaking her fist in his face.
Okay: They walked along the riverside, talking cheerfully until the sun went down.
Better: They walked along the riverside, chattering like squirrels on caffeine until the sun went down.
Okay: She followed Uncle Festus hesitantly into the dining room.
Better: She followed Uncle Festus into the dining room, her shoes dragging across the carpet.
Okay: I watched a very good play last week.
Better: I watched an excellent play last week.
3. Be Spare With Adjectives
Choose your adjectives with care, and watch that you don't string bunches together in one sentence (alas, I adore doing so). Adjectives indicate: HOW MANY, HOW MUCH, WHICH ONE. Don't use an adjective with every single noun, and make sure two adjectives aren't saying the same thing.
Okay: The smoky, hazy cloud from the blaze swept across the land,
Better: The hazy cloud of smoke from the blaze swept across the land.
Okay: Far below the dark rocky cliffs, the blue-green sea thrashed itself into a dingy and frothy foam.
Better: Far below the dark cliffs, the sea thrashed itself into a dingy foam.
(Since cliffs usually are rocky, the sea is pretty much always blue-green, and frothy is close to foam, those adjectives are unnecessary.)
4. Be Careful Using Qualifiers
Watch the use of qualifiers such as: Quite, somewhat, rather, seem, appear, sort of, kind of, mostly, hardly, slightly, almost, nearly, probably, usually, barely, basically.
They dilute the strength of a statement in a sentence. If your character is truly hesitant or uncertain about something, it's one thing, but consider how much doubt you really want to indicate.
Okay: It appeared that Grandma's dog had escaped from the back yard again.
Better: Grandma's dog had escaped from the back yard again.
Okay: He was somewhat reluctant to open the package.
Better: He was reluctant to open the package.
Best: He wiped the dampness of his hands upon his jeans and took a steadying breath before he opened the package. (Show reluctance rather than tell about it, as well as omit the qualifier.)
Are you extremely fond of using adverbs or adjectives?
In rough drafts, do you use was and were a lot, and do you have to ferret them out later?
Do your verbs tend to be tired and unimaginative; do you have to spice them up later?
Do you tend to use a lot of qualifiers in your writing?
Are you going to enter the GIVEAWAY?