Well, Pennsylvania is in the yearly time of hot August nights and hotter August days. It’s a good time for swimming. It’s a good time for writing, too. Just make sure the air conditioner is running on high. Writing is the fun part. Other parts may not be as interesting – like editing.
But we must do it. Here are some thoughts about self-editing to get you through these humid days.
1. Learn to be ruthless.
If you are using a professional editor, that’s easy. Take his advice. Don’t question it. Just do it. He knows better than you. If you’re self-editing, learn to be ruthless. Criticize everything and fix what needs fixed.
2. Avoid a long story introduction.
You may get 30 seconds of an agent’s or publisher’s time. Make it count! Don’t keep us waiting. Hit us right from the beginning.
3. Choose the simple over the complicated.
There’s no need to try to impress. It doesn’t work anyway. Unless you live on Vain Avenue, there’s no purpose to show off your extraordinary vocabulary. Keep it clear. Keep it simple or you’ll lose your readers. Is showing off worth the risk?
4. Get rid of needless words.
My guess is we often add unnecessary words to the story or piece. Get rid of the excess.
5. Eliminate subtle repetitions.
Jerry Jenkins lists the following examples in his article How to Edit a Book.
“’She nodded her head in agreement.’ We could delete the last four words. What else would she nod but her head? And when she nods, we need not be told she’s in agreement.
‘He clapped his hands.’ What else would he clap?
‘She shrugged her shoulders.’ What else?
‘He blinked his eyes.’ Same question.
‘They heard the sound of a train whistle.’ The sound of could be deleted.”
6. Stay away from the words up and down…
…unless they’re really needed. “He fixed [up] the car.” “They went [down] to the store.” Less is always better, especially when it’s not needed.
7. Don’t overuse the word that.
This is one of my pet peeves. I hate the overuse of that – probably because I have a tendency to overuse it. Most of the time it just doesn’t belong.
“He believed [that] his friend was lying.”
”Was it possible [that] he could escape?” Get the point?
Okay, maybe we’ll look at some more next week. Until then, no matter what the weather, write on! See you in seven!