So this week I've been giving 2 workshops at the Savvy Authors Summer Symposium, one on Prose Tightening (just finished) and one on Query Letter writing (just began). I have to say, I've really enjoyed the experience so far. I was a little nervous at first, because I'd never given an online writing workshop before, but the folks at SASS run this SO well, with support from all sides, that it's been a breeze and a pleasure!
Trivia: it seems as though the most interesting/helpful "tip" I offered in the Prose Tightening workshop was on avoiding Delay of Subject and Forms of "To Be." If you're an experienced writer, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. But if not, I'm going to re-post here to share them with you. Maybe you'll find another tool to add to your revision tooolbox :)
As much as possible, avoid sentence structure that begins “There is/was/were…” This is called DELAY OF SUBJECT and can add wordiness to your writing. It moves the subject away from the beginning of the sentence and weakens the overall impact. Example:
Delayed Subject: There was so much for Fanny to do when she got home, but all she wanted to do was crawl under the covers and disappear.
Better: Fanny had so much to do when she got home, but all she wanted to do was crawl under the covers and disappear.(Now FANNY, who is the subject of the sentence, leads the sentence – stronger writing).
Forms of “to be”
Generally speaking, verbs like is/are/was/were and their variations are weak words. Of course you’ll have them in your writing, but examine your use of them and see whether a stronger verb would make a sentence more interesting or appealing:
Weak: The giraffe is a beautiful animal, with a coat that is like the colors of the sun and a body that is taller than a flagpole.
Strong: The giraffe is a beautiful animal, with a coat like the colors of the sun and a body taller than a flagpole. (Notice that the opening phrase of this sentence maintains use of “is” – it isn’t necessary to eliminate all of them.)
Weak: Robert was standing by the fire, waiting for Sophia to notice him.
Strong: Robert stood by the fire, waiting for Sophia to notice him. (A simple change in verb structure here eliminates was + and “ing” verb, to past tense, which doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence)
Weak: Felicia was a gorgeous woman, Stanley thought, though she was so intelligent and witty the night he met her that he never dreamed of approaching her.
Strong: Gorgeous, intelligent, and witty, Felicia first struck Stanley as the kind of woman he’d never have the confidence to approach. (Notice the total change of sentence structure here, which puts an emphasis on the qualities of Felicia)
When Stanley first met Felicia, she seemed so gorgeous, intelligent, and witty that he didn’t dream of approaching her (Notice the different sentence structure here, with a focus on their meeting and Stanley as the subject of the sentence).