Repetitive sentence structure can be really hard to pick up when you’re always close to your work. The best way to find it is to read your work aloud. If every single sentence has the same basic rhythm pattern, it will swiftly become monotonous. I discovered during the editing process of my first four books that I consistently started a sentence with an independent clause and then tacked another independent clause onto it by sandwiching a conjunction in the middle. Everything sounded the same. The author intent on avoiding this and making his prose more fluent must use a variety of sentence structures and lengths.
Here are several examples.
1. The short sentence. Short sentences frequently have a simple structure: one subject, one verb, and often one complement. These too can become tired if used too regularly, but when used in moderation, it is one of the most effective sentences in an author’s arsenal.
“And so he had lived: 237, a little underground animal who did as he was told. Yet he itched” – excerpt from Rafen.
Here the short sentence offsets that longer one before it. The impact is increased by what precedes it.
2. The long sentence. Despite its length, this sentence makes the prose feel as if it is moving quickly. Too many long sentences render the text bewildering. However, one or two effectively placed can create a quick picture with broad brushstrokes. A long sentence may have a compound structure (two independent clauses) or a complex structure (an independent clause with one or more dependent clauses attached).
“He only had a glimpse. The room was a deep, comfortable black, excepting a small circle of naked blue light at the head of the double bed, where the dripping Lashki Mirah was in an ugly sprawling position, grasping King Robert’s throat with one spidery hand and pointing the vibrating copper rod to his head with the other” – excerpt from Rafen.
3. Sentences beginning with a participle phrase. If you are close to driving your reader crazy because you start every sentence with a subject, you might want to try beginning the next one with a participle phrase. Like so:
“Collapsing on the floor, Rafen discovered somehow he had retained his sword” – excerpt from Rafen.
4. Sentences beginning with a subject. These are among the most common sentences, and they are certainly some of the easiest for readers to get their heads around. However, an author should disperse them among different sorts of sentences for variety.
Rafen is a midget with black hair.
5. Sentences beginning with a prepositional phrase. These are great tools for evading monotony.
After writing this sentence, I am gratified.
6. Sentences beginning with a conjunction. When I learnt grammar in school, one of the first rules my textbook outlined painstakingly was that one must never begin a sentence with the conjunction “and”. I believe novelists can bypass this rule. Other useful conjunctions include “although”, “but”, “yet”, “because”, and so on. Starting a sentence with “and” gives the feeling of a continuing thought.
And so he had lived.
These are just a few loose sentence categories. However, familiarity with even just these six can help you make your writing much smoother.
Editing Tip for Fluency No #4: Use a variety of sentence constructions and lengths to correct repeated sentence structure.