As I am heavy into the editing mode, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned about editing.
I wrote both of my self-published novels prior to 2011. Frustrated at not being able to find a publisher or agent, one day I Googled “self publishing” and found Smashwords. Mark Coker’s marketing guide sent me to Twitter, and Twitter led me to several web sites that’ve helped my writing considerably. I reference them at the end of my post.
One of the most important things a writer can do is learn to recognize and remove extra words. Your book will flow better because the reader won’t need to plow through superfluous verbage.
Here are some examples:
1. “Always”. Run a search on your manuscript for “always”, then delete the first one you find and see if it changes the meaning of the sentence. It rarely will. Example:
Grant always got his coffee at a local shop, avoiding the national chain because he thought they charged far too much.
I’ll go a little further than removing one word, I’ll remove four:
Grant got his coffee at a local shop, avoiding the national chain he thought charged too much.
Removing the four words didn’t change the meaning of the sentence, and you’ve tightened your text up.
You could also say avoiding the national chain that charged too much or avoiding the expensive national chain, but it would take Grant’s opinion out of the equation.
2. Directional use of “up” and “down”; i.e., “stand up” and “sit down”.
Grant stood up and punched Manny in the nose.
Bensen sat down in one of Grant’s guest chairs.
It’s presumed that when you stand, you stand up. Standing down is done only in the military.
Grant stood and punched Manny in the nose.
Bensen sat in one of Grant’s guest chairs.
I’ll break this rule on occasion with a sentence like,
Grant stood and gave Amber a kiss, then sat back down.
To my ears Grant stood and gave Amber a kiss, then sat sounds abrupt.
Grant drove up to Redding in the Ferrari, making the trip in just over three hours.
Redding is north of Modesto, where Grant works and lives. North is “up.”
Grant took the Ferrari to Redding, making the trip in just over three hours.
“Just” is one of those words that can usually be cut as well, but to do so in this sentence, to retain the original meaning, I would have to make the sentence longer. I’m hesitant to do that.
3. “That” is one of the most overused words in fiction. Run a search and see if you can eliminate each instance.
Amber thought that the suspect was lying to her.
Amber thought the suspect was lying to her.
4. ”Very” is another overused word. Give it the ax, if you can.
Bensen was very worried that Grant was losing it.
Bensen was worried Grant was losing it.
A bonus: I got rid of very and that.
5. “There” is weak and often unnecessary.
Hanks knocked on the door, but there was no one home.
Hanks knocked on the door, but no one was home. Or, but no one answered.
6. Any word ending in “ly” can usually be chopped. Be ruthless with this! Few things are worse than a story full of adjectives. They are a crutch for poor writing. I hate them so much I can’t bring myself to write out some examples.
If you’re interested in improving, by tightening up, your writing, check out these sites: