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September 29, 2010 / Chersti Nieveen

polish those prose

Recently I read a book that blew me away. The first few chapters were vivid with descriptions, the prose flowed with beauty that made my own writing pale in comparison, and the pacing was perfect.

And then I hit the last the third of the book. Let’s just say that the book fell apart. Not so much the plot or the pacing, but the prose were no longer pretty or delicious to read, and the descriptions were flat and hard to visualize.

So what happened?

There are a million answers out there, and I’m unsure what the right one is, but this is my guess: the author didn’t have time to polish the ending.

That can happen to all of us as writers. We either grow too lazy, don’t make the time, or just give up. But I know after reading that book, I want EVERY PAGE of my book to shine. Here are some quick tips to help you see if your book is falling apart at the end.

1. Look at your book chapter by chapter. Does your last chapter have as much polish as the first? I’ve heard agents refer to this as “conference syndrome” since a writer only gets the first few chapters workshopped at a conference. Those first few chapters become extremely polished, but after that, the book falls apart. Compare the different sections of the book and make sure they match up.

2. Read it out loud. You’ll notice when your writing flows because it will slip off your tongue. Have a rough part you stumble over? Fix it!

3. Make time. As writers, we need to have time to actually put words on paper. But it’s not a matter of finding time, but rather making time. I have a writer friend who has cut TV out altogether so she can find time to write. You might find a deadline creeping up on you, and so try to schedule time so you can find the perfect words you need for each chapter.

4. Don’t just settle for good — aim for the best. Afraid to rework a scene? I blogged about this previously [see post here] using Ally Condie as an example, but the gist is you work on a computer. Open a new doc and try rewriting the scene there. You’ll be blown away with making your good writing even better.

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3 Comments

  1. Liesl / Sep 29 2010 1:21 pm

    Very good advice Chersti. I find reading out loud to be very illuminating. All the weaknesses begin to scream when I do that. I also like #4. We get what we expect from ourselves.

  2. Shallee McArthur / Sep 29 2010 4:22 pm

    Great advice! Writers should always aim for the absolute best for every part of their writing. And I agree with Liesl– reading aloud is surprisingly helpful!

  3. Michelle / Oct 1 2010 10:33 am

    Some really great advice, Chersti! I defintely agree with all you said.

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