Willamette Writer member and writing instructor Jill Kelly knows how to revise. An award-winning author and editor and a former professor of grammar and literature, she’s helped hundreds of writers move their work to excellence. This month, she’ll be leading two Willamette Writer workshops in Salem.
To get us started on the road to revision, she’s sharing a few tips and tricks. This is just part one. Get out your red pen and get ready to revise with Jill Kelly!
Revise with Jill Kelly
The subject and verb of any sentence are the two most important pieces of information. As readers, we are always looking for them in order to put the meaning of the sentence together, so writing that widely separates them is more difficult for us to understand.
Jack, my brother-in-law from Cincinnati who worked as a factory foreman and had a collection of motorcycles, came to visit us each summer.
Jack, my brother-in-law from Cincinnati, worked as a factory foreman and had a collection of motorcycles; he came to visit us each summer.
In the first sentence, the main subject is separated from its verb by 18 words. In the second sentence, only 6 words separate the first subject from its verb, and no words separate the second subject from its verb. If you must separate your subject and verb, remember that readers can handle up to 8 words between the subject and verb; more words than 8 and many readers will have to reread the sentence.
You’ll hear more tips and tricks from Jill Kelly next week. Until then, move those subjects and verbs, and check out our Salem workshops below!
About Jill Kelly
Jill Kelly, PhD, is a freelance editor and writer. Her most recent novel is When Your MotherDoesn’t(April 2015, Skyhorse, New York). She is the author of two other novels, The Color of Longing (3 Cats Press, 2013) and Fog of Dead Souls (Skyhorse, 2014). Her memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She is a frequent presenter at the Willamette Writers Conference on editing and a spokesperson for enhanced creativity for people in recovery. She has been helping writers move their manuscripts to completion for over 20 years.