While laboring away on my manuscript, I obsessed over the passive verb problem. I switched out the “I was” and “She became,” obliterating most of the sleepy “to be” verbs from my novel. Proud of my work, I sent it off into the world to be read by my trusted few. The new comment that came back? Something along the lines of this: “You should really try to vary your sentence structure. Many of your sentences seem to begin with a pronoun-verb combination.” Damn.

So I sat down at my laptop once more and did a close read of a random chapter. Then, I shrugged sheepishly because my reader proved right. See an example of two lines from my current work.

Original Version:

He stared for a moment in disbelief and spoke with a bite of amusement. “When did you run into this…door?”

I sighed. “Four days ago. Are you always this nosy?”

Now that you’ve read this example, you may note one of my biggest criticisms – I have a bad habit of not letting the dialogue speak for itself. Setting that aside for another post, see how simple this problem is to fix.

Revised Version:

“When did you run into this…door?” he asked.

I sighed. “Four days ago. Are you always this nosy?”

I challenge you to scan a few pages of your manuscript. Are you varying the sentence structure enough? Do many of your sentences begin with a noun (your character’s name) or a pronoun in tandem with a verb? Spice things up and move them around. Like most revisions, you’ll find it only gives you some gray hair and will make your work better.