Clean Up Your Manuscript: Five Quick Fixes

Monday, September 6, 2021

After you’ve written your book and rested it for a while, then comes the task of self-editing. As a line and content editor, I come across habits that are common among writers.

These are things we know, but they still creep into our writing. While re-reading your manuscript, here are some specific tips and tricks to help smooth out your story before it leaves your hands.

1. Some phrases sound natural to us when we are speaking but become redundant when we put them on the page. Read the sentences below without the words in brackets and you’ll see that they flow better and nothing is lost.

Trina laughed [to herself] when Patrick crashed into the door. 

She whispered the words of the hymn [to herself].

2.  Since heads and shoulders do specialized jobs in conveying our emotions, some reactions are understood without adding body parts to the sentence. 

John nodded [his head] in response to Donna’s request.

When Dana asked how his day had gone, Mark shrugged [his shoulders].

3.  Colloquialisms creep into our writing, but can be removed without losing the meaning of the sentence.

Mikayla stepped off [of] the sidewalk.

“Get off [of] me,” Monique squealed.

4.  Have your characters do what they intend to, without delaying them with “filler” words.

Dane managed to get to work early today.
Dane got to work early today. 

Megan began to explain what she meant.Megan explained what she meant.

5. Give your reader a ringside view of your characters’ actions by avoiding filter words, such as felt, saw, thought, wondered, etc. The reader sees through the eyes of the point-of-view character. Immerse them in that experience. 

Instead of: Dionne saw him reach for the box. 
Try: He reached for the box. (the reader knows Dionne’s watching him)

Instead of: She felt the rough wool against her skin.
Try: The rough wool scratched her skin. 

It will take a bit of practice to break out of habits we’ve formed over time but with fresh eyes, we can get rid of those pesky words and phrases that weigh down our sentences. 

Until next time. 

2 comments:

  1. These were certainly nice reminders. I'm finishing up a book, and then I'll need to go through and proofread and edit, so I'll be on high alert. :-)

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