January 31, 2006 | It's All About Writing
It’s time to put your manuscript on a diet. Cinch your belt as tight as you can and let’s self-edit.
What’s self-edit? It means you eliminate all the fat, all the extra words that don’t move the story forward, and all the passive words bogging down your scenes.
REUNDANCIES are unnecessary words over describing an action.
The following are examples and if you look hard you’re bound to find several in your work.
• David pulled out the bench and sat down in the chair.
The word ‘down’ is unnecessary because that’s the only way David could sit.
• David jumped up. OR David stood up.
‘Up’ is unnecessary because, again, that’s the only way he could go.
• Melissa shrugged her shoulders.
I love this one because it eliminates two words, ‘her shoulders’. What else could Melissa shrug?
• Melissa loved to see David’s well-toned chest and how it tapered down to his narrow waist.
‘Well’ and ‘down’ go. The sentence should read;
Melissa loved to see David’s toned chest and how it tapered to his narrow waist.
The corrected version is cleaner and right to the point.
A few other examples are;
• Blue in color
• Climbed up the stairs
• Eased slowly
• Nodded his head
• Stomped heavily
• Stood to his full height
• Terribly bad
PASSIVE WORDS are used in our speech but should never be used in writing. You’re telling a story and must keep the action moving. These words are showing not telling.
• Started to
Readers want action therefore you must construct your sentences with powerful verbs.
The same reasoning applies to ADVERBS and ADJECTIVES. The following is but a small select and offer little to help paint a picture.
• A little
Most, if not all, adverbs and adjectives weaken your writing and need to be eliminated from your story.
PREPOSITIONS are not your best friend. Go through your work and highlight every preposition, including prepositional phrases. If you have an abundance you must clear them out to create stronger sentences.
THAT is a word we seldom need in a sentence. Its filler and a word you need to eliminate from your writing and your vocabulary.
The Best Tip of the Day;
Do a word search to discover how many times you’ve used a specific word. Reread your sentence and replace the overused word with something stronger.
Friday we’ll discuss dialogue. Until then…