5 SIMPLE EDITING TIPS
by Contributing Writer, Author, Jan Sikes
You’ve finished your manuscript and joyfully written ‘The End.’ Now that you are there, the tedious work of editing is next. I know. I hear you groaning, but it is the most important and necessary thing you can do to your story. Experts tell us to let our manuscript rest a week or two before we attempt to edit it.
I’m going to share with you FIVE simple tips that can make the process of editing a little less painful.
1. Download and open Grammarly:
There are other free apps out there besides Grammarly, such as Evernote that are programmed to find simple typos and grammatical errors fast. Does it catch all of them? Of course not. But, it’s a good start.
2. Do a search for Filter Words:
What are Filter Words? “Julie looked out the window and saw a small dog. She realized that the sight of it made her feel happy.” Examine every paragraph and cut these types of filtering words out of your writing. Consider instead: “A small dog appeared outside Julie’s window and she swelled with happiness.” Not the most eloquent revision, but still much better than the first version. An even better change would be to add a physical reaction that shows her emotional reaction. Cutting the majority of these types of filters out of your work will improve it dramatically.
AVOID FILTER WORDS
If you don’t know what filter words are, you can’t avoid them.
Here is a partial list of filters and their close relatives. Some words could appear in multiple groups.
See: appear like, become aware of, detect, discern, distinguish, give the impression of, identify, look, look like, note, notice, observe, perceive, realize, recognize, reveal, seem, sense, sight, spot, watch
Smell: detect the smell of, diagnose, get a whiff of, scent, smell like, whiff
Hear: catch, eavesdrop, overhear, listen to, sound, sound like
Touch: feel, feel like
Taste: appreciate, delight in, enjoy, like, relish, savor, take pleasure in
Know: ascertain, assume, believe, bring to mind, decide, deem, discover, gather, get, glean, guess, infer, intuit, learn, posit, regard, remember, suspect, think, understand, wonder
Experience: be subjected to, face, go through, live through, suffer, take in, undergo
Be able to: be capable of, be equal to, be up to the task, can, could, have the ability to, have what it takes to
3. Stop Starting and Beginning:
“What do you mean?” you ask.
“She began to walk toward the bus stop.”
“He started to clean his gun while she looked for ammo.”
“She put her head in her hands and started to cry.”
Here are some suggested changes that make for stronger and more descriptive writing:
She sprinted, sauntered, ambled, or shuffled to the bus stop. It all depends on what is happening with the character and her attitude toward the bus stop. The next one would be better fixed with dialogue. He opened the cleaning kit on the table and reached for his gun. “Will you find the ammo while I clean the gun?” He asked.
‘Starting’ or ‘beginning’ is usually unnecessary. Find any use of the words ‘starting’ or ‘beginning’ in your story and eliminate them, unless the action being performed is delayed in starting, or interrupted somehow. For example, “Jimmy started loading the wagon, but Maria drove away before he could finish the job.”
4. Eliminate or Replace Repeated Words:
We all do this. We fall in a rut and tend to use the same words over-and-over-again to describe action, characters, and settings. One of our RRBC members, Nicholas Rossis, has written a book, Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings.
I cannot say enough good things about this book and how invaluable it is when it comes to finding new ways to say the same thing in a stronger and more descriptive way.
5. Read your Manuscript Out Loud:
This is an excellent technique to find echoes, redundancies, filter words, weak verbs, and stilted dialogue. Yes, your family might think you’ve truly lost it this time, but I promise this technique is highly effective.
Our eyes are trained to see words that aren’t there, gloss over misused words and even convert numbers into letters. And, our brain sees words differently on the computer screen than printed on paper. So, my bonus tip is to print out your manuscript and do a line-by-line edit.
**This is only a partial list of editing tips. Adverbs and Adjectives are biggies and I’ll do another post to focus on them.**
But, for now, here are five plus one tips to help with editing your magnificent manuscript!!
Check out Jan’s author page and books on Amazon!
(If you’d like to be considered for a Contributing Writer spot with RRBC, please contact us at RRBCInfo@gmail.com)