Recently, I went to a meeting of our local writing group called VIRA and was given a copy of these 12 tips for editing. I found them to be very helpful and decided I’d share them with you. I’ve added some of my own thoughts where I hoped they might be useful… I couldn’t help myself :-))))
The original blog post found here: Editing blog – 12 tips
Here are 12 tips to help you delete, edit and improve your writing.
1. Cut “that” out
I can always spot an unprofessional writer by the repetitive and unnecessary use of “this,” “that,” and “these.” A specific pet peeve of mine is finding them as the first word of sentence. When you review your drafts, remove every instance of these (that) you can. See what I mean?
Personally, I took a copy of a couple of chapters from my newest book and did a “Find" for the word "that" and I was surprised at just how often I had used that where it was necessary and how little I used it when it wasn’t. I guess after a certain number of books, a person tends to keep this little sucker in the forefront of your mind so it isn’t overused. Remember, there are places, they need to appear. So don't remove them all without rereading your work.
2. Break up long sentences
Long sentences run the risk of losing your reader. When you put several ideas in one sentence, break them up into separate sentences. If you spot a comma-heavy sentence, try to give each idea its own sentence.
Okay – guilty!!Thankfully, I have an editor who catches me and mentions it.
3. Reduce redundancies
Get to the point by avoiding redundancies such as “violent explosion” or “new beginner.”
Not too bad with this one. But I do like to use adjectives more that adverbs. I try to place them where they’re not redundant. Although – the "new beginner" one could still be legitimate – right? There could be a bunch of beginners starting one day and a new beginner appearing the next…??
4. Lose the nothing phrases
“In order to…” and “needless to say” are two examples of common phrases that add nothing to your story. Find phrases that are simply filler and axe them.
Nope – I stopped this after the first few books - unless one of my characters actually uses them in conversation, a habit of that particular person.
5. 86 “very” and “really”
“Very” and “really” are really very useless words.
I really agree and very seldom use them.
6. Purge the passive voice
Your writing gets dull when you employ passive phrases such as “It become known to me.” Go with an active voice. “I discovered…”
Oh my… it took me forever to even know when I was employing the passive voice. I found this one to be so hard to correct – it makes me wonder if I’m just a passive person???
7. Use power verbs
First drafts tend to include many wimpy verbs. Make it a point to replace common verbs such as “get” with less common and more powerful verbs such as “seize” or “command.” Look at my word choice above. “Use” is predictable and boring. Would “Choose” or “Employ” or “Apply” pumped up the prose? Notice every subhead in this list begins with an action.
She/he’s right about this. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve highlighted a word and gone to review / thesaurus and checked for something better. On the other hand – (couldn't resist #4) – I will admit to perusing creative works where the overeager novelist has leapt overboard with this procedure and it’s excruciating to comprehend the substance of the actual phrase.
8. Refer to people as “who”
Barry is the guy that can help you with your editing. “Who” is how you refer to someone. Correction: Barry is “who” you need to help you with your editing. Improvement: Barry will help you with your editing.
No-brainer! Not sure about the animal kingdom for this one. Do you refer to a dog as the dog who or the dog that?? Humm…
9. Avoid the “today stamp”
“Currently” is a stinker. “Nowadays” is too. Starting off with “Today” or “In today’s…” are other meaningless throw-aways.
Nope – no problem.
10. Eliminate “there is” or “there are” at the beginning of sentences
There are lots of ways to start your sentences more interestingly than “there is” or “there are.” Start your sentences with a bang.
Stopped doing that after the first book … my son edited the first three chapters and boy did I get sh… told .
11. Let’s get friendly
Let us become friends. Let’s become friends. Let’s get friendly. I believe contractions make your writing more friendly and familiar. And, of course, striking forms of “be” tends to liven up the copy.
I believe it’s better too!!
12. Steer clear of the ing trap
“We were starting to …” Whenever you see an “ing” in your copy, you can probably improve the line. “We started” is a more exciting way to start.
Okay – I take exception to this rule – well a little bit. In this example of course it works, but that isn’t always the case. When I'm writing, I find sentences that constantly start with a noun followed by a verb to be somewhat deadly. I like to change the rhythm. Beginning sentences with an “ing” word helps me do that and in many cases - for me - it conveys emotions better.
***To me, writing is about the person’s voice. If authors followed every fiddly editing law, wouldn’t we all start sounding the same? Oops – I mean – Wouldn’t we all sound the same?
I've read a lot of books where certain rules have been ignored. But as long as the meaning is clear, the work exciting and the characters grab me, it didn't matter diddly if a few exceptions were made. I imagine to most of the readers who haven't studied English grammar, it's the same for them too.
What do you think? Should authors suffer if their prose isn't up to grammatical standards? What about huge blockbuster sellers like E.L. James's 50 Shades of Grey?