You’ve heard of writing prompts, now we have revision prompts! Each prompt will give you a specific writing issue to check for in your WIP, along with tips on how to fix each. Going through this process one issue at a time will not only help polish your current novel but will also teach you specific ways to improve your writing for your next story.
PARTICIPIAL PHRASES: These constructions are grammatically acceptable phrases. There’s nothing wrong with using them to create variety in your sentence structure. People who like to use them, however, generally overuse them. And anything overused is likely to call attention to itself, which pulls the reader out of the story.to look at the writing instead of the story.
1) Driving down the street slowly, she found the house she’d been looking for.
2) Running an errand for my mother who was laid up after knee-replacement surgery, I ran into my childhood best friend.
3)He jumped over the fence, using all of his energy.
SEARCH FOR: Within your word processing software, do a search of your manuscript for “ing.” This will pull up many words that are not verbs (like king and rings), so you will need to examine each usage. Ignore the ones that are nouns and look for the ones that are verbs and end with “ing.” These are the participles. If it is followed by a noun, like in the first example above, or a prepositional phrase, like in the second example, it is a participial phrase.
THE FIX: There are many ways to change sentence structure and still show that more than one thing is going on at a time. Usually a simple tweak or two is all that’s needed. Here are a few that could be used on the examples above:
1) While driving down the street slowly, she found the house she’d been looking for.
2) As she ran an errand for my mother, who was laid up after knee-replacement surgery, I ran into my childhood best friend.
3) He jumped over the fence and used all of his energy.
You may be surprised by the number of times you unknowingly used a participial phrase, maybe even multiple times in a paragraph or sentence. Somehow, they tend to slip past our guard against repetition, so it’s always a good idea to read through your ms. and look for them specifically. Then try to keep their use down to about 1 per page. That allows them to add variety to your sentence structures without overusing the construction.
One of the keys to publication is a willingness to learn. We hope our Revising Prompts will help you learn more about the craft of writing and speed you on your way to publication.