Solutions for Awkward Writing

currently playing on my iPod: Bedroom Hymns by Florence and the Machine

We’ve all been there. Well, at least my writerly readers have. You take a final look at that chapter you rewrote yesterday–the one you think is just perfect–and Ugh! a nasty sentence smacks you in the mouth.

The first advice I’d give to avoid such smackings is to read your work aloud to yourself. Add a friend to the equation and it’s even more fruitful. The sneaky awkward phrasing will have no place to hide.

Next, decide what you’re truly trying to get across to the reader. The nugget. This will help you to clarify the sentence. After all, if it’s not getting the nugget out there, it has no point.

Finally, you need to make certain that the movements, dialogue tags, and so forth attach themselves to the correct characters. Watch for flow here.

Let’s look at an example.

After rolling onto my back on the bed, I snatched the book from her with an eye roll.

Okay. This is just about the worst sentence in America. Seriously. Lots to do here.

Try moving some stuff around. I snatched the book from her with an eye roll. Uh oh. Nope. The eye roll didn’t snatch the book.

How’s this?

With an eye roll, I snatched the book from her and rolled back onto the bed.

It’s better. But did you notice the “roll” and the “rolled”? Not great.

With an eye roll, I snatched the book from her and jumped back onto the bed.

Obviously, “jumped” isn’t the same as “rolled” but it might work depending on the scene. You could go a few ways with it: sat back onto the bed, curled up on the bed.

Regardless, I’d say this version works. It isn’t beautiful with all of its slangy feel, but it would work in certain novels depending, of course, on the characters and their voices.

Remember, there are many different ways to write the same action, thought, or scene. You, as the writer, just have to decide what flows and makes sense, what sounds good rhythm-wise, and what most fits the characters involved.

Good luck, everyone, and happy writing!

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