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.
A new paragraph tells the reader that there is a break of some type. I can indicate: 1) someone new is doing something; 2) the action or dialogue has shifted to a new topic or type of action. It can also be used to emphasize a short sentence by putting it in its own paragraph.
1) mixing more than one character’s actions and words in one paragraph;
2) starting a new paragraph whenever a character whose paragraph we’ve been in speaks.
FIND: Paragraph breaks. Evaluate each paragraph break to see if you are following the guidelines above.
- For each paragraph break, look at the previous paragraph. Who’s action and/or words is it? If it contains the actions of more than one character, break the paragraph into shorter paragraphs, one for each character.
- Now look at the next paragraph (or the last of the new paragraphs you’ve just written). Who’s action and/or words is it? If it is the same as the previous paragraph–in part or in whole–move the portion for the same character up to the previous paragraph (unless there is an obvious shift in topic or location or you want to emphasize something).
A small airplane cruised over the island. Johnny jumped up and down and waved his arms. Surely they wouldn’t be able to see him in the deepening dusk, but he had to try.
“Down here,” he shouted. “Look down here!” But the plane motored past without even slowing.
A small airplane cruised over the island.
Johnny jumped up and down and waved his arms. Surely they wouldn’t be able to see him in the deepening dusk, but he had to try. “Down here,” he shouted. “Look down here!”
But the plane motored past without even slowing.
WHY? A two-fold reason: First, it makes it easier for the readers to keep track of whose action and/or words they’re reading. This also allows tightening of the writing because fewer dialogue tags are needed. Secondly, it emphasizes the interaction between the characters–the back-and-forth, the action and reaction. This helps move the story forward at a good pace.