Friday, October 5, 2012

Smooth out that Clunky, Cluttered Phrasing

On Wednesday I was honored to be invited to Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi's excellent, award-winning blog, The Bookshelf Muse, as a guest blogger.

I gave several examples of trimming down sentences to reveal their powerful core, then readers offered solutions to six more at the end. It was great fun, and I gave away a Kindle copy and 3 PDFs of my e-book, STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER.

I'm planning on doing a similar exercise here - maybe even turn it into a series!

Anyway, here's the beginning of my blog post over at The Bookshelf Muse, with a link to the rest of it:


by Jodie Renner, freelance editor, @JodieRennerEd

One of my main jobs as a fiction editor is to teach novelists how to streamline their writing and take out all those little words cluttering up their prose, getting in the way of meaning, slowing down the pacing, and impeding reader enjoyment of the story.

For many writers, it takes practice to break old business or academic writing habits and learn to write in a more casual, to-the-point, compelling way for fiction. Many of my newbie novelist clients are highly educated professionals, so they especially have to unlearn overly correct, formal writing habits.

Here’s a short example of overly erudite writing, from a novel I edited years ago, with the name changed:

Before: Jason recommenced after the abrupt interruption, with a scowl in the direction of its origin.

After: Jason scowled at the interruption, then continued.

As the editor, I suggested the “after” rewording, then commented in the margin, about my suggestion: “Less wordy, more direct. No need to say “abrupt interruption,” as an interruption is by nature abrupt. And it’s a given that his scowl would be in the direction of the origin of the interruption.”

Here are more examples of taking out unnecessary words for better flow. I’ve adapted them from my editing, but changed the names and details to provide anonymity for the writers. Of course there are often several different ways to pare a sentence down, and these are just possible solutions.

Before: She looked quickly down the narrow street in the direction they had come.

After: She glanced back down the narrow street.

To read the rest, click HERE.

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013). Both titles are available in e-book and paperback. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Hi Jodie:
    Again I enjoyed your post with Angela and Becca.
    Happy Thanksgiving

  2. Thanks, Tracy! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

    - Jodie :)