The Spice of Life (writing, too)

So what’s left for me to say about self-editing? Not a whole lot, since these pros throughout the month have done such an excellent job.

As hinted at by the title, I like to look for variety with my writing. Let’s begin with the visual. The eye catches an overall view of a page. Too much narrative in fiction can be boring before you even start to read. Children, especially, will reject an all-narrative page, chapter, book. White areas give a restful, more interesting aspect to the reader’s eye. Most of those white areas occur in fiction because dialogue is used. There again, too much dialogue can become boring, and even confusing.

Dialogue needs to be written skillfully, with the readers’ and the characters’ ages kept in mind. Tags can be a problem. Some writers will do most anything in their stories to avoid a redundancy of “said.” The results can be laughable. Instead of trying to be creative with unusual tags, use action part of the time to designate the speaker. For instance: “Oliver sat on the bench and looked at Sharon. ‘So what are you having for lunch?’” instead of: “Oliver sat on the bench beside Sharon. ‘What are you having for lunch?’ he asked.” Again, variety in the way dialogue is used will be more appealing to the reader. But there is nothing wrong with plain old “said” if it is not overused. Dialogue can further action, show character attributes, thoughts, or as we say, develop voice of the character. By blending these forces dialogue can also show growth in character, a point editors look for, whether the writing is for adults or children.

A variety of sentence lengths also improves our writing. Some writers for adult books have a signature style with the length of most of their sentences. Max Lucado tends to write short, to the  point sentences. Some people object to this style, calling it choppy. I like it because that author is emphasizing certain features this way, and definitely makes his statements stand out. John MacArthur, another Christian author, writes in a more scholarly style, using longer sentences and intellectual words. I like both authors but my preference would be a mixture of the styles. If we are writing for children, it’s important to keep ages in mind for the length of sentences. And definitely vary sentence structure as well as length.

Sprinkling in humor, metaphors, reminders of setting and character descriptions add more variety to our writing, and again, a little at a time works more efficiently than too much.

So let’s continue to spice up our writing with variety, and when we self-edit we can catch the areas that need a little more seasoning to bring zest to the written words. As in a favorite food recipe, it can make the difference between dull and delectable.

Shirley

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