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Great Teen Novels Are Edited, Not Written: Refining Sentences, by Jack Heath

My last few posts have been very general. Today I’d like to be extremely specific.

There are 52 drafts of my first book, The Lab, saved on my computer. That’s how many tries it took me to get it right, and frankly there are still some things I’d like to change.

This might seem excessive. But let me show you the process I go through for each sentence.

Dess saw that there was a car driving around the corner.

If we already know that the story is viewed through Dess’ perspective, we don’t need to say that she saw it. We can just say that it happened, like so:

There was a car driving around the corner.

This is still a weak sentence. It contains boring “stop words” such as “there,” “was,” “a” and “the”. It needs to be shorter.

A car was driving around the corner.

Down to three stop words, but it’s still too long.

A car drove around the corner.

That’s about as short as I can make it without losing any information. Now I have to work out how I can convey more detail without increasing the number of words.

“Drove” is a weak word in this sentence, since the reader already knows that’s how cars move.

A car screeched around the corner.

Better. Now we have a sense of how fast it’s going. But we still don’t know what kind of car it is.

A Lamborghini screeched around the corner.

Okay. Now we know how much it costs, and therefore something about the driver.

Let’s compare our new sentence to the original sentence:

Dess saw that there was a car driving around the corner.

See the difference?

There were about 10,000 sentences in The Lab. I had to repeat this process for every single one of them. That’s why I have those 52 drafts, and it’s why editing is the most important part of the writing process.


Jack Heath bio page

Jack Heath author site:

The LabThird Transmission (Six of Hearts)Money RunHit ListSparkTreasure IslandRikers High

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Well said, Jack. I love the editing process – making those sentences sing. Or trying to at least!

    November 3, 2012

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