WRITING & EDITING
TITBITS TIDBITS – Vol #2
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”.
Happy writing…and editing!