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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Power Writing—Make Your Writing Sizzle: Understanding Your Writing Patterns for Better Revisions and Drafts

By: P. June Deihl

We’ve all heard the many suggestions for improving your writing: show, don’t tell; use strong, active verbs, begin your story in the middle of some action or one that raises a question for the reader, to name a few. But how do you find and use the patterns of your writing to help with your revision or with your initial drafts?

Once you understand your own writing quirks, you can use this information to improve your ability to revise your work, and you might also find the quality of your drafts improve.
The question becomes: How do I do this?

One way is to take a look at the clauses you use to construct your sentences. Groups of words make up clauses, and we can add these to our core sentences, or use two or more clauses to create a sentence.

There are two types of clauses:

◘ Dependent clause – a group of words that cannot stand on its own. (Cannot be a complete sentence.)

EXAMPLE: Before going to the park but after washing the dishes, Sally made three phone calls. (Two dependent clauses: before going to the park, after washing the dishes. Core: Sally made three phone calls.)

◘ Independent clauses – a group of words that can stand on its own. (Can be a complete sentence.)

EXAMPLE: My St. Bernard, Morris, ate my homework, and the teacher wasn’t happy with me. (Two independent clauses that could each be a separate sentence: My St. Bernard, Morris, ate my homework AND the teacher wasn’t happy with me.)

Now try this:

Print one to two pages of your writing. Highlight all the dependent clauses in BLUE and all the independent clauses in GREEN. Look at what is highlighted in GREEN. There are two ways that independent clauses can be joined, either by a conjunction (a connecting word such as: and, but, yet, so, etc.) or with a semicolon.

Highlight the conjunction between independent clauses in RED and semicolons in PURPLE. Do you take advantage of both of these, when appropriate?

Many writers use one type of clause more often than the other. Using this method highlights sentences that can be rephrased to take advantage of both dependent and independent clauses as well as those places where a conjunction is used versus a semicolon. Now that you see your patterns you can use them to make your writing stronger and more varied, picking and choosing between the options based on the needs of the paragraph or scene. Once you know your patterns you can vary them, keeping the writing fresh and strong.


That is just one example of the things June will explore starting November 2nd through the lessons and assignments of her Power Writing Workshop as she exposes the patterns writer’s can fall into and what he or she can do to make sure not to be stuck doing the “same old thing.”

The Power Writing workshop explores some of both the better and lesser known topics that can dull your writing. Through a series of worksheets you will discover your writing patterns and find ways to work around these to develop better polished manuscripts and stories.

The Power Writing workshop covers:

◘ Verbs – Are you using too many “to be” verbs and not enough strong, active verbs?

◘ Creating Mood – How can you show mood through character and setting?

◘ Words to Avoid – What words don’t add to the sentence and could be eliminated most of the time?

◘ Nouns – Are you using too many proper names and not enough pronouns? Do you use specific nouns that enhance your story?

◘ Types of phrases – Do you vary the types of phrases in your writing?

◘ Sentence and paragraph length – What length sentences and paragraphs do you use? Do you have a good mix of one or two word, short, medium, and long sentences?

◘ Types of Sentences – What types of sentences do you tend to use most often? Does your sentence structure vary? This also includes the cumulative sentence, which is one way to create longer sentences without losing your readers.

◘ How to find and eliminate awkward places in your writing.

The cost of the workshop is $10 for FFnP members and $20 for non-members. It runs from November 2nd through November 16th. You can register here.

P. June Diehl is the Senior Editor for Virtual Tales, the Senior SF Editor for ePress-Online, and also coaches authors. Author of THE MAGIC & THE MUNDANE: A Guide for the Writer’s Journey, she teaches/mentors writing classes online at Writer’s Village University and for Pearls of Writing as well as having conducted workshops on various elements of creative writing. She is enrolled in UCLA’s Writing Program, focusing on long and short fiction. Ms Diehl has published poetry, short stories, and articles online and in print. She’s finalizing a novel and working on four others. She lives in Virginia with three cats and a dog.


Mary Marvella said...

Judy, that's a whole course! Thanks bunches. I might need to see if I can print that.

Jessa Slade said...

I've newly discovered the semi colon after having lost it for lo these many years. It's nice to give my 'and' and 'but' a rest :) Great reminder to mix it up. Thanks for the tip!