Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Editing Made Easy (Or At Least Easier)

Striped_Notepad_4710 (7)After I finish a first draft, I start into my edits right away. And boy, is there usually a lot of editing to do!

Looking at the manuscript as a messy whole is sometimes overwhelming.

To get me started on the right track and help myself feel a little more enthusiastic about the chore in front of me, I usually start out with some easy edits that make a big difference.

The first thing I do is a find {ctrl F} for my favorite words. I’ll find a lot of ‘justs’ and ‘sighs.’ This takes only minutes to do, but makes me feel a little more cheerful.

Not sure what your favorite words are? Some folks use Wordle, which highlights the most common words in a manuscript.

The next thing I look for are weak words and words to investigate…because I might need to make the sentence stronger: That, seem, there, might, something, ‘to be’ verbs (like was ____ing), had, very, so, little, almost. This takes a bit longer, but is still really easy. Terry Odell has a nice post on using Word to eliminate problem words.

I have some new words to look for, too. There was a great post on Write it Sideways last week about filter words. Quoting the post, filter words are “those that unnecessarily filter the reader’s experience through a character’s point of view.”

Those words are (again, quoting directly from the blog):

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can
  • to decide
  • to sound (or sound like)

So, to give a quick example, a sentence using the filter word ‘heard’ might look like this:

John heard the siren.

Without the filter word, you could have this:

The siren blared.

Basically, you’re putting the reader in John’s shoes and deeper into the story.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to eliminate all of these words. And there are plenty of situations where you need them—where the wording would be too awkward otherwise.

But it’s a great place to start with editing, I think. It’s nothing if not easy. You can search for the words and just take a quick look at the sentence and see if it can be stronger or worded better.

When I knock out these easy fixes, it just helps me feel more confident about knocking out the rest of the mess. :)

Are there particular words that you look for? What words do you commonly use as fillers?