Category Archives: Editing

NO CRUTCHES ALLOWED!

Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words

I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.

What the flick?

“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”

Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.

Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.

Just don’t

Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?

What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.

Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.

Actually, crutch words make everyone the same

Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.

I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.

Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?

More important: How many of them do you need?

Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.

Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this

And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?

Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.

It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript

When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.

Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.

So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!

And then—get writing.

 

The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern

 

Advertisements

WHO AM I? . . . WHY AM I HERE? . . . AND HOW DID I GET HERE?

Einstein quote about explaining

In writing, we are always told to SHOW not TELL—but sometimes, we do need to do a bit of explaining so we don’t leave our readers floundering.

Reader to himself: “I had no idea Frances was Genevieve’s second cousin, once removed, and lived at the top of the hill just behind the shuttered mansion! That information would have come in handy when she was stabbed with the knife bearing the family crest!”

No one likes to be kept in the dark indefinitely, and so I thought it helpful to provide you, dear reader, with the following insight:

What Causes Under-Explaining?

Under-explaining can happen for one of two reasons:

1. The author doesn’t know his story well enough.

If you’re writing about a character, setting, or activity that you really don’t know that well, you may fail to fill in important blanks simply because you lack the info yourself.

2. The author knows his story too well.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the problem of our own rampant imaginations running away with us. We see our characters, settings, and situations so clearly in our own minds that we forget readers aren’t sharing that vision. You may know your hero is blond, 6’1”, and about twenty pounds overweight, but that doesn’t mean that information will be automatically brain-waved to your readers.

K.M. Weiland , November 3, 2013

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

AN APPLE A DAY!

A writer friend of mine from “The #Awethors,” posted a link to this great informational site. I found #2 to be quite interesting. It informs us that Amazon is cracking down on sloppy self-publishing. This is a good thing!

To this point, many people have believed that self-publishing was for losers who could not get a million-dollar book deal from one of the highfalutin publishing houses in the big city. Those of us new (or old) to the industry know (or have learned) this is not the case. But, you know what they say about a few bad apples.

Beginning this month, Amazon has decided to pluck those worm-infested fruits from the bushels of books being offered.

If you have an interest in learning more, dear readers, I offer the following link for your perusal:

10 Trends in Publishing Every Indie Author Needs to Know

 

 

Please return and let us know in the Comments section of this post if this information was helpful to you as you pursue your own writing career.

SORRY, I’VE GOT TO DASH!

For all of you serious writers out there, I offer you this link to a very informative lesson on lines of various length!

How to Use Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

When you have completed reading that helpful blog post, please return here, and tell me (and my millions of followers) if you learned anything new about lines.

That’s the long and the short of it!

EDITING COUNTS

 

“Probably the fastest recovery in the history of lost dogs, but “Muffin’s” owner has been located and returned home!!! Thank you!!!!”

(The above update was an Actual Facebook post)

Lost dog ad

 

Thank God!

Muffin has been losing her mind with worry for over forty-five minutes. Her owner was last seen wearing a heavy parka, boots, gloves, and carrying a snow shovel.

Muffin tried giving the police a description of her owner, but all that came out of her mouth were barks and howls. The cops simply patted her little head and ignored the APB she offered.

At last, her owner heard her wailing over the sound of the snow plow going past. He came back inside Muffin’s home, only to be accosted by two men in blue. They ascertained this individual was truly Muffin’s owner and left the pair cuddling on the sofa, licking each other’s face. (ewww—gross!)

Another happy ending brought to you by “editing!”

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for helpful writing advice.

Perhaps you’ve noticed—there’s a blizzard of it out there.  And like snowflakes, no two advisors are the same, in the way they drift their sage words against the fence corralling our own individual genius.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for having your shovel handy at moments like this.

In editing my book, Bosses and Blackjacks, I’ve been struggling to decide if the beginning is too slow. But, today I happened upon a mound of advice that I did not have to dig through to understand.

I share it with you now, dear reader:

“Opening a novel with a lot of fast action is like putting your reader on a Japanese bullet train going 320 miles an hour. The landscape outside the window is all blurry.

There’s no reason to look at it because you can’t really make sense of it. You might as well take a nap.”

(By Sally Apokedak, @sally_apokedak
Sally is a literary agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency and is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences around the country.)

I agree with Sally.

No need to change my book’s beginning. Ease into it, so my readers have a sense of my protagonist and the world he lives in, before he goes crashing headlong into a drift of life-threatening hairpin turns.

Do you agree that we all latch onto any advice that fits exactly with what we were thinking in the first place—as I did here? We are vindicated We feel affirmed. We have packed our egos neatly and made it to the station on time.

All aboard! We are on the right track!

Before You Shred It – Read This!

When you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope (or chain) with your latest manuscript—before your shred it into tiny little pulp flakes—take a moment to read the following writing advice.

Who knows? It might just be enough to rev up your genius motor and get you back to saying: “Type magic fingers, type!”

1. Have your characters avoid asking questions. Instead have them speak in declarative statements. Instead of saying, “What happened to your face?” Have a character make a statement, “Your face looks horrible. I knew going to the bar was a bad idea.”

2. Have characters agree. It’s an easy trap (and a realistic one) to have characters disagree. We tend to think that causes drama. But actually it stalls a plot. Have characters agree and suddenly your plot goes to unexpected territory.

With permission from Patrick Wensink, author of “Fake Fruit Factory.”