I’ve been editing/revising a new novel of mine, and today I came across this jewel of a sentence:
The sky above had turned a nasty gray.
Anyone see a problem with it? No? Well, it’s not a “bad” sentence. But, look at it with this in mind – where else besides ‘above’ would the sky be? Exactly.
Adjectives, adverbs, and modifiers should be used to suggest a different state that what is expected. In this sentence, I am talking about the preposition ‘above.’ The sky should be above you. If the sky is below, that gives a different view.
The sky below had turned a nasty gray.
Whoa – wait, where are we? Is the sky below? That’s odd. See the difference?
The sky had turned a nasty gray works just as well with less words.
This also lends to the idea that writers write well from the get-go. That’s not true. I’m sure that some more talented and experienced writers start a novel closer to the final draft than I. But in my first drafts, I make many little mistakes like the one mentioned above. I use adverbs, I slather on the adjectives, and I summarized conversations that I will embody in a later draft. When I revise, I work out those mistakes. I smooth out my transitions, deepen characters, and question everything that I wrote in the draft. It’s what what revision so much fun and so headache-inducing at the same time.