I do love you. I really do, LY words, but you have to go. Quit crying “just”and “really”. I promise we’ll meet again in my next book. Oh God, “he said,” “she said,” please don’t make me feel any more guilt than I already do.
I love you but you have to go.
Okay, maybe that was a little drama queenish, but you get the point. I’m nearly finished with the first book in my Casserole Lovers Mystery Series, and it’s time to slash and tighten – with love, of course.
The first thing I’ll do is print a hard copy of the manuscript. Computer reading is hell on old eyes, plus for some reason, errors are easier to spot when I’m holding it in my hands. Since I haven’t found a way to turn off my internal editor when I write (thus, the snail pace) my manuscript is usually clean as far as typos and grammar goes.
Adverbs and Adjectives are a whole other matter! I love certain words – use them all the time in conversation. Words like just, actually, finally, really, very, almost, even, that, smiled, realized, sighed, felt, since, still and knew. In fact, my story is flooded with them. Most have to go. That’s JUST REALLY going to kill me.
I judge a lot of contests and there are three major mistakes I see in almost all the entries. The first one is too much back story too soon. In the words of the great Donald Maass, there should never be back-story before page thirty, only hints. Number two on the take-points-off list is what I call bullet point writing. Here’s an example.
John walked into the room and slammed the door behind him. He grabbed the remote and flopped down on the couch. He flipped through the channels looking for something to take his mind off the meeting earlier with his boss. He was so angry he was about to pop.
See how everything starts with a noun? Can you see bullets before each sentence? Doesn’t this one sound better?
Slamming the door behind him. John walked into the room, grabbed the remote and plopped down on the couch. As he flipped through the channels searching for something to take his mind off the earlier meeting with his boss, he blew out a calming breath. Dammit! The man knew how to push his buttons.
And the third thing I see is what my agent calls “fluff”. This is information that doesn’t move the story forward. In the above example, it might be a description of what John was watching on TV or how he cooked his dinner then loaded the dishwasher. It could even be a funny story he thinks about that is meant to inject a little humor in the story. Again, if it doesn’t move the story forward, it’s gotta go.
Get my point?
So, if I’m going to lower somebody else’s score because of these - hello – I’d better practice what I preach.
We all have certain things we love about our writing and editing is not for the faint of heart. But if we want to make the manuscript as crisp and fresh as possible and keep that reader turning the pages, sometimes we have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
And that’s another thing I like to do. I am the queen of clichés. I have to make a special pass through the manuscript just to find those. Snip! Snip! Oh crap, I forgot about repeats. Slash/bash.
I found this great site that humbles me by telling me how many times I use words over and over. I pasted in a random chapter of Ducks In A Row that hasn’t been ripped apart by my CPs yet - http://www.wordcounter.com/ I was surprised that I am not as bad as I used to be. I had 9 justs, 6 felts, 5 thoughts, and 6 saids. So I tried another random chapter and this time I only had 6 justs, 5 knews, 5 sinces, and another of my favorites – 5 stills.
Yanno, sometimes you JUST need a certain word.
Baloney, Lipperman, you know what you gotta do!
So, yes, manuscript, I do love you, but you’re too fat. Get over it.
What are some of the ways you slice and dice when you’re editing and what are your overused words?