Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick Edits

Oh, dear. I have to work hard at tightening my writing. I always worry that writing succinctly comes easily for everyone else in the world, but I know it doesn't, or else there wouldn't be so many books and tips out there.

The fact is, no one is perfect. It takes years to be great, and even then it's hard to catch everything. Can you imagine what it must have been like for people who wrote on typewriters, or before that, long hand? Ugh! Painstaking! I read recently in Writer's Digest that an author whose debut book had just been released chose to write on a typewriter, and that when he made a mistake or had to rewrite a line, he would type the whole page over again because it forced him to....I don't know what. I don't get it. Thank God for word processing software and especially for the Find function.

Which brings me to what I do Finds for (Control + F for those who like shortcuts):
  • about (especially "about it"--found TONS of these)
  • actually
  • almost
  • like
  • appears
  • approximately
  • basically
  • being
  • even
  • eventually
  • exactly --astonishing amount of these. Ack!!
  • finally - one of the most disgusting ones since it's often a sign of redundancy
  • just
  • just then
  • kind of
  • nearly
  • only
  • practically
  • really
  • seems
  • simply
  • slightly
  • somehow
  • somewhat
  • sort of
  • strictly
  • suddenly
  • truly (it was just gross how many I found)
  • utterly
  • was (and was there, was it)
  • were
I deleted about 700 words by doing this (!!!), and I know the text was tightened as a result. Fair dos: I didn't make this list up. I found it, and I'm sorry but I can't remember who posted it but I suspect maybe Rachelle Gardner. Anyway, it's a superb list and you'd be amazed at how quickly and instantly text can be cleaned up by searching for these. Enjoy.

Do you guys have any easy tricks for cleaning up your writing?


Tina Lynn said...

I'm afraid to look. I'm definitely bookmarking this little gold nugget:)

Travener said...

Yeah, this is a great tip. I've already been through my ms. at least a dozen times. Now...hmmm...maybe a thirteenth?

Lynnette Labelle said...

Great list! Thanks for sharing.

If you know anyone who's looking for a critique group, send them my way. I'm matchmaking writers until tomorrow. Thanks.

Lynnette Labelle

Lynnette Labelle said...

I linked my blog post to yours and wrote about the list. Hopefully, you'll get a few new readers this way. ;)

Lynnette Labelle

CKHB said...


Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks guys! Hope it helps. It was kind of disgusting how many of the offenders I found in mine.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

This is a great list. My fave is just. When I wordled it was almost as big as my character names. Oh, and "hand/hands", I write romance, so lots of hands going everywhere, lol.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Speaking of too much of one thing, Roni, like your "hands"-- I have "looked" as in "She looked at him." My characters seem to do an awful lot of LOOKING!

Mike Chen said...

My list is usually have, has, was, is, and ly (as in, a check for any adverbs). The first draft gets leeway, though -- that's all about getting the content down.

Gemma Noon said...

That's a great list, I'll definately run back through the book with it in hand; I have a horrible feeling I'll have a couple of those cluprits running around. I second CKHB though, Wordle has really helped me tighten up the book.

The other tip (and it's found everywhere so I don't know who it originated from, sorry!) is to read it out loud. I was surprised at how clumsy some of my paragraphs were, but they are better for the exercise.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Oh. My. God. Thank you so much for posting this. How did I not know about control + F?! (I love short cuts!)

After a quick review of my first 20k-or-so words, I am appauled. I think what is the most shocking for me is adding up the total times I used the character's names, and the words he, she, and about. (For some reason, I am a huge offender with about...) Seriously. It was a gross amount.

But, I am encouraged to go through the "was" and use more powerful verbs.

Deep breath.

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