Monday, August 20, 2007

Are You Up/Down with That?

Since some of you don't have subscriptions to the Romance Writers Report, I thought I'd share some gems on self-editing by Jeannie Eddy from this month's issue.

I have to admit, I've been guilty of many of the following.

(some examples mine to save space)

1. A word that you don't need.
See how many unnecessary "that's" are in your work. Could you leave some out?
Example: "It was an annoying habit that she had that signaled to him that she was tired."
"It was an annoying habit she had, signalling she was tired."

2. Are you in, out, over, up or down?
These directional words can often be deleted.
Example: He looked down into her eyes.
He looked into her eyes.

3. Finally, suddenly, you can improve your writing - by deleting finally and suddenly.
Example: Suddenly a boat appeared on the horizon.
A boat appeared on the horizon.

4. I feel you should stop telling me how the characters feel.
Example: Helen felt angry enough to hit John.
Helen's hands balled into fists as she stared at John.

5. It even seems like I have more to tell you.
Example: She didn't even know where to look.
She didn't know where to look.

6. You are almost ready to finish your book.
Read through your manuscript to see how many times you use "almost." Do you say "He was almost afraid to say something?"
Was he or wasn't he? You and your reader should know for sure.


Steve Malley said...

Woo! Now that's advice!

I'd also recommend 1(a): Kill 'then' DEAD. For my money, it's the single most useless word in most novels.

avery said...

'Then' is one I went back and cut out of my manuscript after reading one of your other comments, Steve. I hadn't realized I used it so much until...then.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good hints. More bulletin board fodder for my office.

Kate S said...

Steve and Avery - thanks for the reminder. I'm a big "then" abuser. I've even gone into treatment a few times, but like Lindsay, Britney and Nicole, it just doesn't seem to stick.

Charles - thanks for stopping by. I know you're busy out there. Hope you're having a smooth return to work. :)

Stewart Sternberg said...

Every time I see a list like this I "ooh" and "ahh", cut and paste it, and put it someplace where I promptly forget it exists.

Lucas Pederson said...

Yes, dear Kate, I, the greatest writer in the world...well, in my world anyway, share these same problems.

Seriously, I'm horrible at self edtiting. I've had some help, though, from friends here in the blogWorld, and thus have improved quite a bit. But I still have my faults, as I probably will for most of my life.

Thanks for sharing these, thank you so much!

Kate S said...

Stewart, I do the same thing. Charles' mention of a bulletin board make me think I should get one. I've got tons of good material that I forget about until I happen to run across it.

Ah, Travis. Yes, even we literary icons do have our faults. :)

Kate S said...

LOL, LUCAS, I think I just proved my point. Sorry for calling you Travis.

avery said...

I once had a bulletin board. I used it mostly to pin up photos of people who represented my characters, but also to post grammatical reminders and such. I had it propped up on my desk (no wall space, here), and the cats promptly decided the back of it was a fabulous scratching post. After having to daily vacuum bits of cork strewn in a ten-foot radius, I decided to put things in folders--where they were promptly forgotten.

Travis said...

Thanks for the tips! I find these kinds of things in some older manuscripts. Editing those is sometimes like restoring old furniture.

Jon said...

The Hell with Strunk and White. This is the kind of reminder that works.
(Strunk and Kate?)

Kate S said...

Avery - I've been meaning to buy a corkboard and fortunately, there are no cats here at the moment. Most of the great advice I've saved over time is either on a shelf or my hard drive - and all promptly forgotten the moment I sit down to write.

Travis - "Editing those is sometimes like restoring old furniture." Good analogy!

Jon - Strunk and Kate? Hardly. :) I just passed along these gems from Jeannie Eddy.

avery said...

I went back to my novel, did a search for each of these words, and was able to cut about four hundred unnecessary uses of them. It really does make a difference in excess. So, thanks Kate and Jeannie.

Kate S said...

It's amazing the difference it makes, isn't it, Avery. These "useless words" and the "punch up the last word of each sentence" advice on CS Harris's blog are some of the most useful tidbits I've come across in a while.

Cynthia Eden said...

I'm seriously guilty of overusing "really"--I guess we all have that one word that gets us, huh?

Sidney said...

Good tips. Suddenly I feel a need to look down at my computer screen and re-edit some things.

Bernita said...

This sort of advice needs to be repeated over and over until we automatically avoid the glitches.