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Lessons Learned From My Editor: Part One

Editing is a major part of the writing process, whether you do it yourself or hire someone. I firmly believe an average story becomes great when properly edited. I have the pleasure of working with Darren Todd for Warden's Reign, and I want to share some tips and tricks I've learned from him on how to make a story shine on the sentence level.


The first thing I will tackle is using negatives. I do this fairly often in my writing, and I've finally learned to combat it... mostly. Not to say writing negatives is bad, just try to avoid overusing them, else comprehension can be shaky. Words like doesn't, haven't, don't, can't, won't, shouldn't ect. are the culprits here. The goal is to change the sentence to positive words. Here are a few example sentences to look at.


"He doesn't know anything."

Take out 'doesn't' and switch 'anything' for 'nothing' and it reads like this:

"He knows nothing."


Another example is to change the statement into a question like in this sentence:

"He didn't understand how she so easily forgave them."

"How could she so easily forgive them?"

The question format replaces the need for the words 'didn't understand.'


In more extreme circumstances, using too many negative can lose any hope of comprehension. For example, take a look at the following sentence:


"I'm never not going to like cheesecake."

Instead try this: "I will always love cheesecake."


When I read the first line, I have to stop and think about the double negative, then remind myself two negatives equal a positive, therefore the line actually means the person does like cheesecake. It's confusing.


In some cases a quick fix can be used by replacing a negative with a simpler negative like this:


"There isn't enough time."

"There is no time." Or, even simpler, "No time."


"I'm not going."

"I'll never go."


This may seem simple to some, but I've gotten stuck on negative sentences in my own writing many a times. Sometimes I stare at the words like it's a jigsaw puzzles; all the pieces are there but the solution evades me. I still need plenty of work on this particular skill, but the more I practice, the easier it comes to me. So the remedy is to keep on writing! One day I'll be as good as my editor.


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