With only one new submission from my critique group I was able to focus on finishing the full novel critique for a friend. I took some time, and 3k words, to talk about ways to improve the story. Many of these suggestions can be applied to any novel, so I thought I would share them with the rest of the world in a three post series about editing. Without further ado: Editing Prose.
This is all stuff that should be done AFTER doing plot arc and scene related work. (Feel free to not even read this until those are done. For real.)
1) Find/delete –Uses of ‘finally’. Using ‘finally’ continues to delay, for the reader, what’s getting waited for. It’s better to get on with it.
2) Find/delete –Uses of ‘obviously’. If it’s really obvious then the reader already knows it, and if it’s not obvious then it’s better to use details to make it obvious.
3) Find/delete – Uses of ‘I think/thought’. If it’s in dialogue then no problem, but if we're far into a characters point of view it shouldn't be needed. If a search of your book comes up with a lot of these phrases then there is another option; italicizing all internal thoughts. This alternative allows you to get rid of all uses of 'I think/thought' without radical rewrites of the thought contents. .
4) Find/delete – Uses of ‘very’ and ‘really’. They don’t add. There’s an economy of words, and these are on the low end. They can be deleted outright without loss, or replaced with a more useful word. “Really bad” = “Terrible” “Very big” = “Huge”
5) Replace – ‘thing’. The more details the better, look at the resource ‘Pyramid of Abstraction’ for a more complete explanation as to why. (To be talked in a future blog post.)
Be careful about repetition. The reader doesn’t want to read about the same experience twice or rehashed phrases. It doesn't hurt to try cutting 10% for any piece, no matter how experienced the author. This is a tool, not a goal, I'll expand upon it in my next post about editing resources and tools.
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