The Well-tempered Sentence: Line Editing for Authors with JoSelle Vanderhooft

Craft The Well-tempered Sentence: Line Editing for Authors with JoSelle Vanderhooft

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Editing, Grammar, Writer's Life
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Taming sentence structure can be one of the most difficult tasks for writers of all skill levels. In this class, veteran editor JoSelle Vanderhooft will go over the basics of sentence construction, how to build rhythm into paragraphs, the similarities between sentence flow and music, and the benefits (and perils) of breaking grammar rules, and more.
Other events or classes in this series
Week One:
  • Defining line editing: what editors do when they line edit and how authors can use some of these tricks when writing. This includes a cautionary note that line editing is best done AFTER an author gets their story—though, of course, an author’s mileage may vary. In general, though, I’m going to stress that it’s best to see line editing as cleanup or second/third draft work.
  • Defining sentence structure and grammar rules: Basically a review of diagraming sentences, subject/verb agreement, subject/verb/object, full sentences vs. sentence fragments, how paragraphs work, paragraph length, etc. (I may break this up into two lessons.)
  • Homework: Analyzing 10–15 short paragraphs and/or sentences while incorporating the knowledge students have gleaned from these two lessons.
Week Two:

  • When to break sentence and paragraph rules: This will stress the following points. 1) Do so only when you’ve mastered the basics of sentence structure and grammar. 2) For rhythmic purposes (to speed up or slow down narration). 3) To add variety.
  • Sentence structure and music. We’ll be listening to a few songs on YouTube and discussing how lyrics and the general flow of notes and meter work in them. (I’m thinking of assigning The Dresden Dolls’ “Coin Operated Boy” and Vivaldi’s “Spring” because the first does some interesting things musically and lyrically, and the second does some great things rhythmically.)
  • Homework: Analyzing a few paragraphs of text to discuss what works and doesn’t work as far as playing with grammar and sentence length goes.
Week Three:

  • Catching basic errors. This isn’t a copy editing class, but we’ll focus on how to spot and replace things like repeated words, garbage/unnecessary words (“that” “on account of” instead of “because”, etc.) and awkward or unclear sentence structure.
  • Reading the passage out loud. This can often help you catch errors in rhythm and structure while giving you a reader’s perspective. This will basically stress that one’s inner voice (the way they read something silently) is different from their “out loud” voice.
  • Homework: 10–15 sentences or short paragraphs in which repetition and awkward structure (including accidentally repeated words) are rampant.
Week Four:

  • Putting it all together.

* Includes individual critiques of 1,000–3,000 words or so of each participants’ writing in which they apply all these lessons.
Jo Vanderhooft
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