Most authors take special care to consider how they begin their book. What’s that statistic about how long a reader will spend looking at a book before deciding whether to buy it or put it down? I believe it’s something crazy short like 7 seconds. Likewise, how you start and end chapters is important, because those are the breaks that leave readers wanting more.
But how much time do you spend thinking about how you begin sentences?
This is something I see regularly when I edit, and it’s what I want to talk about for today’s writing tip: how to begin sentences. Or, more specifically, how to not begin sentences. The tip is essentially this: don’t begin all your sentences in the same way. I know that sounds obvious, but I see this more than you might think.
Here are the two most common sentences beginnings I see:
1) Overuse of sentences beginning with “I.”
I started to… // I thought… // I wanted… // I went…
Obviously you have to have some sentences that begin with “I,” but what I notice is sentence after sentence after sentence begins like this. After a point, it becomes repetitive and turns into more telling than showing.
I did this and I did that, and the flow of the story becomes monotonous.
2) A verb with “ing”
Starting to think, he discovered… // Waiting by the pool, she saw… // Holding the phone in her hand, she thought…
Often I see this type of sentence structure repeated throughout a book. Again, there’s nothing wrong with beginning a sentence like this (unless you incorrectly make it a dangling modifier); the problem is when that’s the only sentence structure you use!
As you write this coming week, think carefully about your sentences. Look at how you start them, and make sure your structure isn’t repetitive. A few small changes will go a long way to enhancing the readability of your book and overall enjoyment for readers.
What do you think? Is this something you struggle with or something you notice when you read?
*For more on this topic*