W.E.T. – Vol #2

WRITING & EDITING TITBITS TIDBITS – Vol #2

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Following on from W.E.T. Vol #1, here are some more tips you might find handy. Again, this is only my opinion, taken from the knowledge I’ve acquired since becoming a published author. Some of them you might already be aware of, some you may not. Regardless, I hope you find something helpful. I was fortunate to have an exceptional editor who I sincerely miss working with (she’s a full-time author now). This is my small way of paying it forward.

  • Omit all unnecessary words. Don’t fill your manuscript with unnecessary words for the sake of meeting your desired word count. It’s more important to produce quality rather than quantity. There are way too many examples I could list here, so I’ll just mention a few, which I find most commonly used:

Began – The overuse of this word drives me nuts and I see it in stories all too often. Characters should do things, not begin to do them. Delete the word and go straight to the action.

Incorrect: ‘He began to undo his shirt.’

Correct: ‘He undid his shirt.’

Of – A word often used unnecessarily.

E.g. Use ‘inside her’ instead of ‘inside of her’, ‘off him’ instead of ‘off of him’.

Was – In many cases it’s not needed.

E.g. Instead of ‘Barry was shaking his head’, use ‘Barry shook his head’.

In order to – It’s just as clear to merely say, ‘to’.

Made their way – This phrase is majorly overused and completely unnecessary. It’s gotten to the point that I cringe every time I see it in a story.

E.g. ‘She made her way into the room.’

Better to simply say, ‘She stepped into the room.’

Now – Try to use the word sparingly.

E.g. ‘She was now thirty-one.’

Just say, ‘She was thirty-one.’

E.g. ‘She’d been out of the dating game for so long now.’

Just say, ‘She’d been out of the dating game for so long.’

  • Not always, but generally speaking, the adverb goes before the verb it modifies.

E.g. ‘She was compelled to avert her eyes from his when he held her gaze intently for minutes at a time without distraction.’

In the sentence above, ‘intently’ is too far away from ‘held’.

Correct: ‘She was compelled to avert her eyes from his when he intently held her gaze for minutes at a time without distraction.’

  • Redundant words. Here are just a few:

‘He shrugged his shoulders’ – No need to include ‘his shoulders’, just say ‘he shrugged’.

‘She rose up off the chair’ – You can’t rise down so just say ‘she rose off the chair’.

‘The reason is because…’ – Leave off ‘because’, there is no need for it.

‘She pursed her lips together’ – Leave off ‘together’. To purse your lips means they are pressed together.

‘She waved her hand at him’ – Just say ‘she waved’.

‘Breathing in and out’ – You can’t breathe up and down. It’s enough to just say ‘breathe’.

  • Dialogue tags – Almost 100% of the time, if your character has an action which is connected to a piece of dialogue we don’t need the ‘he said/she said’ part. It gets repetitive for the reader. Below is an excerpt out of my book, Starstruck. Notice I’ve not used any dialogue tags because the actions tell the reader who is speaking.

‘The dark-haired man walked quickly back in their direction but stopped in front of Sam. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“Don’t happen to have a mailbox under that bar of yours, do you?” She unleashed what she hoped was a cheeky grin, picking up the envelope and waving it back and forth.

“No, but the airport does have a mailroom. I’d be more than happy to add this to tomorrow’s outgoings for you.” He plucked the envelope from her fingers and flashed a seductive smile before addressing Jesse. “What can I get you, my friend?”

  • Show vs Tell – A “tell” can be identified by the words, ‘he/she looked’, but also when the prose “tells” something rather than creating a picture, or “showing” for the reader.

E.g. ‘He sighed heavily, feeling sorry for himself, and closed his eyes, lazing back on the bed.’

The underlined part is the “tell” in this sentence and can be taken out altogether. It’s always best to just “show” and allow the reader to make their own assumptions about how the character is feeling.

E.g. ‘He seemed ashamed to be the bearer of bad news.’

To “show” in this sentence, you could try something like… ‘He slumped, shaking his head as if ashamed to be the bearer of bad news.’ Now the reader can “see” how he is acting ashamed.

E.g. ‘She looked confused.’

Think about what physically happened on her face to convey her confusion. You could say something like… ‘Her brow creased in confusion.’ Now we can “see” she frowned.

E.g. ‘He looked happy.’

How so? Try something like… ‘He grinned, happiness sparkling in his eyes like the sun breaking from behind the clouds.’

See the difference? We want to “show” as much as possible and create a picture for the reader instead of “telling” them. Your readers are smart; don’t assume they need to be “told”.

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Happy writing…and editing!

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W.E.T. – Vol #1

WRITING & EDITING TITBITS TIDBITS – Vol #1

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Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer, no one can get away without having to edit their manuscript. It can be a daunting process—if you let it—but a good polishing will do your book wonders, taking it from mediocre to something great.

Now, I’m not here to claim I’ve mastered the art of editing because that would be far from the truth, but I have a few tips to offer that others may find useful. Keep in mind that the information below is only my opinion, taken from the knowledge I’ve acquired since becoming a published author. Take it or leave it, but I believe it’s a good thing for writers to help writers. So, here’s Volume #1…I’ll try to keep them fairly short.

  • Find your crutch word/s and eliminate as many as possible. These are words that you overuse in your writing, repeating them again and again. A reader will pick up on them and, most likely, find it rather annoying, potentially discouraging them from reading your next book. When I wrote the first draft of my first novel, my crutch word was “that”. Not only did I overuse it, but the word is almost completely unnecessary in 95% of cases, and it’s considered a “junk word” in the literary world. Thank the heavens I had a wonderful editor who was quick to point it out to me.

  • Pay attention to which tense you are writing in. Whether it is past or present tense, choose one and stick to it throughout the story. The tense should be consistent.

  • Be careful not to repeat words within the same sentence, or even the same paragraph, wherever possible. Repetition annoys the reader, especially if you do this often. Here’s an example of what NOT to do:

‘His lips crushed hers with a ravenous kiss. Their lips moved with wanton desperation, their hands frenzied, exploring curves and muscles. He flicked his tongue between her lips and she opened for him, her lips and tongue matching his passion.’

  • Don’t flood your manuscript with large blocks of detail, space them out throughout the story. Stick to the important details which will move your story forward, not bore the reader. E.g. A full page explaining what a house looks like will make the reader skim your work, possibly missing that one line which may be detrimental to the plot.

  • Filters – Filters disguise themselves as the five senses. It is always important to write using your senses; however, the trick is not to use the words, saw/see/seeing, felt/feel/feeling, heard/hear/hearing, etc. wherever possible. These are filter words and they create distance between your POV character and the reader, reminding them that they are reading a story.

E.g. ‘Samantha heard the door slam.’

In the sentence above we have the information of what she heard, however, Samantha heard the door slam, not the reader. To make the impact immediate so the reader hears the door slam at the same time as Samantha, try:

‘A door slammed, the vibrations reverberating in the soles of her feet.’

Now the reader “hears” and “feels” the door slam right along with Samantha.

E.g. ‘She felt his hand slide up her back.’

That’s all well and good, and there’s nothing technically wrong with the sentence, but how did it feel? What was the sensation she experienced? Try something like:

‘His hand slid up her back, the heat of his palm warming her skin through her silk gown.”

Now the reader can “feel” it.

E.g. ‘He saw a white van in the driveway.’

Again, nothing technically wrong with this sentence, but to make this immediate and have the reader “see” it at the same time as the character, we could use:

‘A white van sat in the driveway, the moonless night hiding the license plate in shadow.’

In conclusion, remove the filter, make the information immediate and use a “show” rather than a “tell” so the reader can see, hear, feel the same sensory information as your POV character.

That’s all from me for now, but look out for future posts on W.E.T as I have at least one more up my sleeve.

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Happy writing…and editing!