I have finished the proofing reading exercise. Now I am taking the time to go randomly through my mss and check there is tension on every page. Putting it in a binder has helped with this exercise.
It is an exercise from the Donald Maass workbook -- something that takes time but hardly anyone does.
It goes like this:
1.Open your mss to a random page. Put your finger on a random sentence. Is there tension? Is there anyway to increase that tension.
2.If there is tension, go to the next sentence. Increase the tension there.
3. Repeat the exercise until you have gone through the mss in a random manner.
It is forcing me to examine individual sentences in isolation, rather than taking an overall view.
Tension can be some many things. The same sort of tension all the time becomes repetitious. It is resisting the urge to explain. It is making sure the yearning is increased. Or that something is attains a greater value. Sometimes tension is increased by making the actions more over the top, and others by toning it down to almost nothing. It is adding layers to simple statements.
The one thing is certain the most memorable stories have dollops of tension.