Monday, October 6, 2014
Edit, Edit, Edit
Some things I learned during the editing process:
Every word counts! There is a basic word count guideline for each literary genre. Failing to follow this guideline, chances a rejection over a request for further material. Take the Fantasy genre for example. The word count guideline suggests your manuscript contain 80,000 to 100,000 words. If you query with a word count of 200,000, chances are an agent won't even give it a second look, if they read your query letter at all.
I found during the editing process, cutting unnecessary words, dialogue and eliminating redundancies cut my manuscript from 86,000 words to 73,000. That's 13,000 words! Simply by cutting one word at a time. It tightened my sentences and made my manuscript flow better.
Some words I found, more than not, to be unnecessary:
the (believe it or not)
that (I bet I deleted "that" 500 times)
had (almost always unnecessary)
just (almost always unnecessary)
The list could go on and on! But these are the most common. Researching editing and continuing on with my manuscript I learned that almost every word that ends in "ly" is unnecessary. They also fall under the redundancy list more times than not. An easy way to look for these words is to "find". Under "find what" type ly. I believe I have one word in my entire 73,000 word manuscript that ends in "ly" now.
Some I've found are:
slightly (deleted so many)
literally (get rid of all)
The other problem with these words: If you find them in your manuscript, chances are you're telling vs. showing and that's a deal breaker! When you find an "ly" word, try to re-write the sentence to show action rather than tell. Another fateful word is "felt"! If FELT is in your sentence, you are telling rather than showing.
Some other things I found:
Don't use a name in every sentence of dialogue. No one talks like that. Example:
"Dad, what are you doing?"
"I'm going for a drive, Emma."
"Why are you doing that, Dad?"
People do not talk so formal. Your sentences will flow better.
Don't search for other words to say "said". Said disappears in the sentence for the reader. They don't even realize it's there. Therefore, it doesn't interrupt the flow of your sentences. Always put the speaker before "said". Joseph said vs. said Joseph. Most of the time, you can "show" with an action vs. "tell" who is speaking. Example: Joseph slammed his hand down on the table. "You are not going!" You just eliminated the need to use "said" at all. I'm not saying don't ever use it, just use it sparingly. Also, using other words for "said" is absolutely acceptable but use them sparingly. As my wonderful critique partner told me: Think of them as only for "special occasions".
Asked: When your character asks a question it is punctuated with a "?" Therefore, you don't always need to say: Joseph asked. Instead try using a sentence to "show" who is asking the question.
Don't repeat dialogue. Example: "Dad, what you doing?" "What am I doing? I'm going for a drive." Unnecessary dialogue! Also, I read somewhere that it's a red flag to agents, and screams inexperienced, new author!
Try to eliminate redundancies. If you use whispered, don't say softly or quietly, you're repeating yourself and taking up valuable word count space. Whispering is soft and quiet.
Brushed her cheek gently. Brushing something is gentle.
He crept slowly. Normally if you crept, it's slowly.
He ran swiftly. Running is swift.
Caressed tenderly. A caress is tender.
He rose up. Rising is up.
He sat down. Sat is down.
He shrugged his shoulders. What else is he going to shrug.
It was 7 p.m. at night. P.M. signifies that it's night.
The hairy gorilla. Gorilla's are hairy.
The dress was blue in color. Blue is a color.
I hope this helps with your editing endeavors. If you have examples of your own, or further suggestions, please feel free to comment!