Editing Tips

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King offers a quick tip sheet that might prove helpful to us all:

1) SHOW(ing) AND TELL(ing): As you re-read your work, watch for places where you tell your readers about personality traits, situations, or emotions, rather than showing them through actions and events.

2) DIALOGUE DIRECTIVES: Watch like a hawk for places where you’ve explained your dialog. Watch for “ly” adverbs and verbs for speech other than “said.” And rethink your paragraphing.

3) SEE HOW IT SOUNDS: Read a passage of dialogue, narration, or description aloud and listen for language that flows or stalls.

4) EASY BEATS: Beware of including either beats that describe dialogue or so many beats that the dialogue is choppy.

5) INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: As with beats, make sure your interior monologue isn’t obtrusive or actually an explanation in disguise. Also, dispense with stage directions whenever possible.

6) SOPHISTICATION: Watch for “as” and “-ing” constructions and change the sentences that don’t actually require these constructions.

7) BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO: Break up lengthy sections of narration or descriptions with frequent paragraphs, or with dialogue, or even with the occasional short, pithy paragraph.

8) POINT OF VIEW: Watch for places where you change point of view in the middle of a scene. If the change is necessary, insert a line space and start a new scene.

9) ONCE IS USUALLY ENOUGH: Find places where you’ve accomplished essentially the same thing twice. Decide which of the two is strongest and cut the weaker phrase, sentence, or entire scene.

10) VOICE: As you read over your work, highlight the passages that please you most. Then highlight the passages that are less than stellar and work to turn the one into the other.

11) PROPORTION: As you read, ask yourself what interests you the most. Then look at what’s left and decide if it’s really needed.

12) CHARACTER DESCRIPTION AND EXPOSITION: Don’t describe your characters all at once. Let your readers meet them slowly, naturally.

13) DON’T LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT: Beware of words like “very” and “rather,” strings of adjectives, fancy imagery, overuse of italics, and exclamation points.

14) ELLIPSIS: Check your work for blow-by-blow descriptions and condense them.

Self editing is challenge—but it’s a valuable tool. Write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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