5 Ways to Improve a Sentence – Fiction Edition

So you get your manuscript back from beta readers, and they pick out sentences that don’t sound right, but they aren’t sure why. Or you’re self-editing, and you want to tackle some of the sentence corrections yourself before sending your work out for a line edit. Here are five tips to improve those sentences!

(Plus, a few sneak peeks at my upcoming release, Lawless:The Ironfire Legacy.)

5 ways to improve a sentence (fiction editon)



1.) Separate it from other sentences to have impact.

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All of the above sentence arrangements are grammatically correct. However, Options 2 and 3 offer more emphasis on the last two sentences. Since the events of the dragons joining the Lawless and becoming friends with Shance are significant and connected, I choice Option 3.

2.) Integrate it with another sentence in the paragraph. 

If. You’re Like. Me. You enjoy using fragments as a way to add emphasis and quick bursts of action. However, doing this too much means those fragments don’t mean anything, and it just sounds like you’re stuttering. So sometimes, combining sentences (2-3 clauses with appropriate conjunctions and commas) is your best bet.

3.) Make it into a new paragraph.

This is a great choice if your sentence really doesn’t belong with the rest of the paragraph, or if your paragraph is approaching behemoth levels of large. Since all genres have different expectations, there’s no one right rule for how large is too large, but generally, shorter paragraphs mean faster pacing. However, even for epic fantasy or literary fiction, once you get past ten sentences, you need to start embarking on a new paragraph.

4.) Get rid of it.

The delete button can be your best friend–and sometimes, there’s just no saving that sentence. Nervous that you’ll delete something and regret it? Before you do a round of edits, duplicate the manuscript file and label the new file accordingly. That way, if you ever really need that sentence, you can go to an earlier draft and scoop up it up!

5.) Have other characters make fun of it–or make it a character quirk.

All authors have those special moments of writing that make no sense. Of course, you can always just fix the sentence. OR, you can blame it on the character and turn your slip-up into their slip-up.

Below, my original mess-up was the phrase “outline of a shape.” I could have just fixed it normally, but I realized that Kesia, my main character, was exhausted and overwhelmed. So I opted to do this instead:

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Another example

I had a character giving some random trivia about paper products, and I was advised to delete the sentence. However, my gut told me it was useful, so instead I turned it into a character quirk. Considering that Tiers Sunscaler is going to be a primary character in a spin-off novella, I wanted to invest a little more into his idiosyncrasies.

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Have any other tips for improving sentences? What about ‘winning’ sentences that make you go “what was I thinking?” Please share in the comments!

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