Editing isn’t always easy or fun. But it makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? A well-edited book sparkles and shines. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is one helpful resource. I came across a quick tip sheet from the book that might prove a boon 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 the unconscious changes.
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 one or two line 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: Look for places in which 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 displease you and work to turn the one into the other.
11) PROPORTION: As you read, ask yourself what interests you the most. Then take a look at what’s left and decide whether 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 I know we can handle it. Write on!
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