How to Make Your Writing Better by Changing One Word

Confession time: I stink at description.

I can see a setting so clearly in my head, but when I try to describe it, it makes no sense to everyone else. And the gag is that my description would be so much better if I just chose my words better.

Fortunately, that's what beta-readers are for.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with one of my own beta-readers (who also happens to be my mom). She pointed out a sentence in my current work-in-progress that she thought needed fixing. Here's the sentence:
The sunset-streaked sky showed through from the outside.
From there, our conversation went like this:

Me: What's wrong with it?

Mom: It's clunky. And I can't picture it in my mind.

Me: It's not clunky! Let me try ... *I try to read the sentence out loud and end up tying my tongue in knots from all that cursed sibilance* Hm ... I see what you mean.

Mom: So fix it.

Me: All right. *Replaces 'showed' with 'shone'*

Mom: That's even worse.

Me: Okay ... how about this? *Replaces 'shone' with something else*

Mom: Ooooh! That's good! I like it.

Me: *Smug satisfaction*

So which word did I choose? How did the sentence end up? Like this:
The sunset-streaked sky bled through from the outside.
Why was that better? Because we can all use a little more blood.

Okay, the actual reason is twofold. First of all, it got rid of that cursed sibilance. Second, it created some imagery of blood, which in turn created foreboding.

In short, that sentence became a zillion times better because of one word.

So if you're ever struggling with a sentence which isn't *quite* right, see if you can figure out which word is causing the problem. By choosing your words carefully, your writing will get a major upgrade.

Indeed they do.

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