Welcome to another Friday! Casey here.
Depending on your viewpoint, one of the most difficult or most fun aspects of writing is editing. I admit I land somewhere in the middle. Since I write straight on to the end with a bare minimum of re-reading, I have to edit more copiously than a writer who cleans as they go along.
However, even if you edit as you write that doesn’t mean there will be no editing. I generally edit as follows (and this is not all-inclusive – I know my fellow Scribes can add more):
1. Use search and find to locate needless or overused words such as: had, that, still, just, which, as, like, etc. I could go.These are a few common empty words. In my most recent manuscript – Misfortune Cookie – I went nuts using still. Unless I meant standing still, they were mostly deleted.
2. Search for was or -ing. This is to eliminate passive verbs and replace them with stronger verbs. Example – I was walking to the door. Instead - I walked to the door. Don’t rush through this phase of editing. This is where you can make your sentences stronger and increase the pacing. This doesn’t mean every instance of “was/-ing” should be nuked. Use passive sentences sparingly and appropriately.
3. Search for sensory words – heard, felt, smelled, saw, thought (and their variations). In this step, I try to remove any unnecessary telling – example - I heard the door open. Instead say, The door shut with a dull thud. Again, don’t skimp here either. Replace telling with showing when you can (and when appropriate).
4. Search for words ending in “-ly“. Adverbs should also be used carefully. Also, make sure you aren’t using adverbs in dialogue to tell the reader emotions. Example – “No. Not again,” he said, angrily. Instead – He stalked across the room, then slammed the door. “No. Not again.” This is another place to show instead of tell.
5. Spell check! But ignore the grammar checker. It’s crap.
6. Enlist the aid of first readers. My friends, who are not writers, always get the first draft after steps 1-5 (don’t rely on them to be your line editor). They catch all the words I left out or used incorrectly. In Misfortune Cookie – I kept using rationale when I meant rational (and I used it too much, so I had to find new words or change the sentence). I do know the difference between the words, but I didn’t see the error anymore!
Next comes the harder part, editing content. Hence the reference to The Reaper. Don’t be afraid to delete large (or small) passages. Every word is not sacred. If you don’t want to lose the words, create another document called “deletions” (or whatever you want). I have a scene graveyard for every book.
This is what works for me. And I take these steps with every book I’ve written and so far my editors have requested very few changes.
Who has other tips or suggestions for editing? Do share!
And if you have time, stop by my blog where I share - Renaissance Fair Fun!