Running Lines: Editing on the Micro-Level

Let’s talk about sentences and the words that make up your sentences.

Because y’all have now mastered the high-level editing we talked about in the first two installments of our February nonfiction know-how, right? You understand developmental editing – choosing your literary conflict and pruning it down to fit your post size? You’re good with structural editing – deciding the order in which your story is going to unfold?


It’s time to think small. This week, I’m going to give a mini-lesson on line editing. Line editing is all about making sure the words you’ve chosen and the way you’ve arranged them into sentences conveys your mood and meaning and, most of all, moves your story forward fluidly. There’s room for style and individual voice, of course, but there are also some general rules to help you get started that will definitely benefit your work.

New paragraphs: You’ll want to start a new paragraph whenever you have a change in scene, speaker, setting, time, or point of view. You can also start new short paragraphs or even single sentence paragraphs to emphasize something in your plot, which slows down the pacing and adds tension and suspense.

Sentence structure: That’s what syntax is, simply put: The way you construct your sentences. Do you use a lot of clauses? Sentence fragments? The key here is variety. You don’t want all your sentences to have the same basic structure and length because that becomes a droning sing-song in your reader’s ear. What happens then? No information stands out, so your meaning gets lost in the rhythmic cadence.

The best words: It’s easy in a first draft to grab the easiest verbs (go, be, have, get, take, etc.) and simplest nouns, then to load up on adjectives and adverbs to help them out. Your job during the line edit is to isolate the words that convey your precise meaning. And that, in a nutshell, is the difference between showing and telling. When you choose more specific verbs, you might find you don’t need those adverbs after all. And when you use more specific nouns or even noun phrases, you might discover that you’ve just painted a much clearer picture for your reader. Example? You could call something a bird, or a chickadee, or a black-capped harbinger of winter. Think about what you want to convey – sometimes the bird alone is enough if it’s not all that important to your plot, but sometimes you’ll benefit from the more lyrical phrase if your bird is symbolic or otherwise essential to your scene.

So dig deep this week. I want you to think about every word, every sentence, and every paragraph, as well as how those sentences and paragraphs flow together. I also want you to revisit the line editing section of Rowan’s opening February post on editing, which contains even more tips for you to consider. When you’re done, you’ll have completed a thorough line edit and your work will be that much closer to grid-ready.

Yeah write super challenge

The second round of super challenge #3 is currently underway! Good luck to all of our participants as they await the results! Did you miss out on registration? Sign up for our email blast so you don’t miss out on any announcements.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Nonfiction know-how:


This month’s nonfiction know-how is a little bit of a throwback. We’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about how to get writing that appeals to your audience onto the page; for Valentine’s Day we’re going to remind you how to show your writing a little additional love. Editing. It’s a task that makes the best of us cringe. We’ve talked about it before, and this month Cindy and Rowan are going to walk you through some specifics with the nonfiction posts and roundups. So what is editing, anyway, and how is it different from writing? Learn more from Rowan here.

Want more info?

Is this your first time here? Check out Sunday’s post which kicked off the week here at yeah write. Our email subscribers can also join us in the yeah write coffeehouse at its home on Facebook. If you’ve never taken the time to read them, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our submission guidelines. The rules are a little different for each of our challenges and we’d hate to have to send back great writing on a technicality.

Did you happen to end up here because you suddenly saw yeah write in your stats? Sometimes members of our community spot excellent writing and they send those posts on over to us. We hope you don’t mind. Take a look around and get to know our community. We’re sure you’ll be happy here.

Have questions you can’t find the answer to by poking around the site? Email us or find us on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll happily help you out.


How to submit and fully participate in the challenge

Basic yeah write guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.

1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog

Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.

Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

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