9 Paragraph Problems Begging to Be Reworded

image by GeorgeB2

“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

 See the end of this post for more information.

If a paragraph doesn’t seem to read quite right, look for the following problems.

1.  Confusing Sentences in a Confusing Order

Changing jobs would solve my problem. I hated my job and its long hours. Especially my slave-driver boss, who always found another task for me to complete before heading home. 

Better:

I hated my job and its long hours. My slave-driver boss always found another task for me to complete before I headed home. I needed to find a new job.

2. There was/It was

image by alex_agri

There was much to do on the farm. I never had time to go out with friends or take a girl to the movies. It was frustrating and made me angry.

Better:

Farm chores ate up most of my time. I couldn’t go out with friends or take a girl to the movies. I became frustrated and angry.

3.  Phrases out of Order

I shut down my laptop, filled a box with all my belongings, and left my resignation letter on the boss’s desk at the end of the day.

Better:

At the end of the day, I shut down my laptop, filled a box with all my belongings, and left my resignation letter on the boss’s desk.

4.  Weak Pronoun Ending a Paragraph

My husband burned my favorite pot, our dog ran away with a poodle, and my son brought home a report card with straight Ds. I didn’t know how to deal with it.

Better:

My husband burned my favorite pot, our dog ran away with a poodle, and my son brought home a report card with straight Ds. I didn’t know how to deal with the catastrophes.

5.  Wrong Word Used

The bell rang, and the students scattered into their classrooms.

Better:

The bell rang, and the students funneled into their classrooms.

6.  Repeated Words

Because there was an APB issued, there must be enough policemen there to handle the pursuit.

Better:

Because an APB was issued, enough policemen must have arrived in the area to handle the pursuit.

7.  Speaker Attribute Too Distanced from the Beginning

image by monicore

“If I’d started the day earlier, I could have completed all my housework, done the shopping, helped the kids with their homework, and then killed my husband,” Jean said.

Better:

“If I’d started the day earlier,” Jean said, “I could have completed all my housework, done the shopping, helped the kids with their homework, and then killed my husband.”

8. Unnecessary Explaining

After paying the bribe, I was low on cash. For Mom’s birthday, I gave her a ring I bought at a pawn shop. She loves jewelry. Ever since she was a young girl, she spent her allowance on jewelry. She even bought me earrings for my sixth birthday. If she learned the source of my purchase, she’d throw the ring back in my face.

Better:

After paying the bribe, I was low on cash. For Mom’s birthday, I gave her a ring I bought at a pawn shop. She loves jewelry, but if she learned the source of my purchase, she’d throw the ring back in my face.

 9. Informal People Never Using Contractions

Sherry would not forget Dan’s blunder. “You are not my kind of person anymore, Jack. I will tell the gang to snub you.” If only she had not met the creep.

Better:

Sherry wouldn’t forget Dan’s blunder. “You aren’t my kind of person anymore, Jack. I’ll tell the gang to snub you.” If only she hadn’t met the creep.

What paragraph problem do you usually catch when you edit?

Buy Link

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author Paragraph

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

12 Solid Ways to Make Your Writing More Vivid

“Simplicity is a virtue in writing, true; but never the primary virtue. … Vividness is.” —Dwight V. Swain

image by Shawn7
image by Shawn7

I created the following paragraph, ignoring Dwight V. Swain’s recommendations for vivid writing in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

Her car had stopped. She tried to start it again. The engine wouldn’t start. Lissa fearfully evaluated her situation. It was miles from a service station. McKinsey slept in the backseat. At least she wasn’t frightened.

She wished Colby was with them. He was a sizeable man. No one would mess with him.

She turned on her cell. It had no service. It quickly brought insects to her window. Lissa, though usually competent and strong, but realizing help would only come from her, started to cry. Lights reflected from the mirror.

Swain’s Suggestions to Add Vividness

image by geralt
image by geralt

1.  Use the character’s senses in action and movement.

2.  Fix monotonous length, form, and style of sentences to produce variety.

3.  Select specific, concrete, definite and pictorial nouns that create images in readers’ minds.

4.  Choose the singular of a noun. It’s usually stronger than the plural.

5.  Use active verbs; avoid forms of “is.” Show a character’s actions when he feels a certain way.

6.  Reword sentences in the past perfect tense (had) to put them in the past tense.

7.  Make sure pronouns refer to the correct nouns.

8.  Use adjectives to give the precise meaning of nouns when needed.

image by makamuki0
image by makamuki0

9.  Substitute action for adverbs where practical.

10. Add a metaphor or a simile relatable to the reader’s experience.

11. Avoid cramming too much into a sentence and distancing the subject from the verb.

12. Fix unintentional repetition of words and phrases in close proximity.

 

 

Look for Swain’s principles addressed in my rewrite to increase vividness.

The Honda Pilot’s engine sputtered and died. Her heart racing, Lissa wrenched the steering wheel hard right and coasted the SUV off the remote road, miles from help. She shot her gaze to the rearview mirror and then twisted her shoulders right and left. All locks secured. No attacker lurked outside in the night.

The low-gas light flickered. The Pilot was out of gas? Impossible. The gas gauge registered full two hours ago. She turned the key. The starter grated like a garbage disposal grinding a peach stone.

Lissa gave up, threaded her hand between the front seats, and brushed her index finger against sleeping McKinsey’s bare foot. Her daughter’s lips parted and closed in a soft snore. Hopefully her toddler would miss the entire frightening incident. Unlike herself.

Her hands shaking, she rustled her cell from her handbag and thumbed the phone to life. No service. She dropped her head against the headrest. What now?

image by Republica
image by Republica

A mosquito fluttered against the side window, determined to reach the glow from her cell screen. She could handle a mosquito. But not the brute with a crowbar invading her imagination and removing every bit of spit from her mouth.

If only her two-hundred-pound Colby sat in the passenger seat. McKensie’s Daddy could scare away a zombie. But a jet flew him to the other side of the US. As Lissa’s lips trembled and her face crumpled, headlights reflected off the rearview mirror.

If you don’t write vivid passages, here’s probably why. Click to tweet.

Would you share your rewrite of the passage?

 

How to Stop Your Readers from Constantly Shifting Gears

“I never leave a sentence or paragraph until I’m satisfied with it.” —Clifford Geertz

by Alvimann
by Alvimann

Have you reread paragraphs to understand what they said?

Most authors write confusing paragraphs in their drafts. If left in books, these paragraphs cause readers to shift into Reverse. Some shifts are small, and readers accept them. But when readers shift gears often, they become weary and might put the book down. Possibly not knowing why.

Can you spot the shifts in these sentences and paragraphs?

Example 1

  • Janice cried all day when she read the letter of biting words from Mark.

Gear shift

  • Why did Janice cry all day? Shift. Oh, because of Mark’s biting words.

Better Sentence

  • When Janice read Mark’s biting words in his letter, she cried all day. (stimulus then reaction – flows without a hitch)

Example 2

  • Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    The waiters hoped the customers wouldn’t order dessert. They’d heard that Karl wouldn’t deliver his famous cream puffs by lunchtime. Karl had called the maître d’ and said he’d lost his van keys. Unfortunately, all customers streamed to the ice cream shop after they finished their lunches and ordered cream puffs.

Gear shift

  • The sentences are ordered so reactions come before their stimuli. Having to mentally reorder stimuli and reactions to capture the picture is tiring.

Better Paragraph

  • The maître d’ informed the waiters Karl had lost his van keys. None of Karl’s famous cream puffs would be available for the lunch crowd. The waiters hoped the customers wouldn’t order dessert. Unfortunately, all the customers finished their lunches and ordered cream puffs. When they learned they’d enjoy none, they streamed to the ice cream shop.

by cohdra
by cohdra

Example 3

  • Sonya hid Angela’s birthday presents. She hoped she’d see her expression.

Gear shift

  • I assume the first “she” is Sonya. But did Sonya hope to see Angela’s hurt expression? Or did Sonya hope Angela would see her smug expression?

Better Paragraph

  • Sonya hid Angela’s birthday presents. Hopefully, Angela would believe her friends had forgotten her on her birthday. Sonya pictured Angela turning to her and seeing her smug expression. (context and names replacing pronouns keep the who-did-what flowing)

Example 4

 

by mensatic
by mensatic

•  Snatching the flower from his lapel, she leaped onto the trolley.

Gear shift

•  How did she snatch the flower while she leaped onto the trolley?

Better Sentence

•  She snatched the flower from his lapel and leaped onto the trolley. (“and” is sufficient to show the latter action followed the first)

by mrmac04
by mrmac04

Example 5

  • Edgar cut the vines and carried them to Alice, whose blond ringlets cascaded down each side of her lovely face. He wound them around her slim waist.

Gear shift

  • Did Edgar wind Alice’s ringlets or the vines around her waist?

Better Paragraph

  • Edgar cut the vines and carried them to Alice, whose blond ringlets cascaded down each side of her lovely face. He wound the vines around her waist. (knowing what pronouns refer to keeps the story flowing)

These writing problems cause readers to reread paragraphs to understand them. Click to tweet.

What writing problems cause you to shift gears while reading?