Today, I have five thoughts for your consideration:
One: Some people don’t know what to do with commas and attempt to do without them altogether. This is not a good idea. Commas are to clauses what traffic signals are to streets—they govern the flow of traffic, although, in the case of sentences, the traffic is comprised of words, not cars.
- Commas follow introductory words and clauses. Instead, they took a left turn.
- Commas set off “asides.” Her sister, Sara, brought coffee.
- Commas separate words in lists: We bought apples, oranges, and papayas for the salad.
- Commas join two complete sentences, and once joined, they form one longer sentence. When used too freely, linked clauses can create run-on sentences.
- Commas frequently precede conjunctions but only when linking complete clauses. When linking a dependent clause to a complete clause, don’t insert a comma. “I intended to come back to the Swords but found myself here instead.”
Consider how many sentences you link together with the word and. Could brevity strengthen your prose? Conjunctions are the gateway to run-on sentence hell. If you are deliberate in your use of conjunctions you will also use fewer commas. Craft your prose, but use grammatical common sense.
Two: Don’t write self-indulgent drivel. Go lightly with the praise, adoration, and general lauding of your characters’ accomplishments.
Three: Use active phrasing. There were Small colorful flowers growing grew in each raised bed. and some slightly Larger flowering plants growing grew around the fountain at the center. With a mixture of mild pastels and vivid colors, it was beautiful.
Four: Don’t waste words describing each change of expression and mood. Consider this hot mess of fifty-one words that make no sense: Eleanor looked at Gerard with concern. His voice changed so much in the telling of the story as his emotions came to the surface that it still seemed so raw, as if Timmy’s death had happened only days ago. In addition, his expressions also changed and his current one was akin to despair.
It could be cut down to fourteen words that convey the important parts of the sentence: Gerard’s raw despair concerned Eleanor, seeming as if Timmy’s death had happened only days before.
Five: Simplicity is sometimes best. “Delicious sounds captivated their eardrums.” Please, just say it sounded amazing. If music touches the protagonist’s soul, it’s good to say so. We want to convey the fact the music was wonderful, and we don’t want to be boring. But when we try to get too artful, the prose can become awkward. Odors and sounds are part of the background, the atmosphere of the piece and while they need to be there, we don’t want them to be obtrusive, in-your-face. This is an instance of prose working better when it isn’t fancy.
Five thoughts to get your writing week started–now, go! Write like the wind!