Tag Archives: fiction editing

The Writer’s Chuck List

When revising your fiction (or non-fiction), you should search for and destroy junk words in your manuscript. Here’s not a check list but a “chuck list” of words and phrases to excise from your prose.

Garbage Can

Although past-tense forms of verbs are presented, be sure to search for their root forms if you’re writing in present tense.

  • -ing verbs — When used with a helping verb, such as “was walking,” change to past (“walked”). When used at the beginning of a sentence, make sure you haven’t dangled a participle (see Undangling Your Participles).
  • -ly adverbs — Usually used to modify a weak verb. Cut the adverb and use a stronger verb.
  • ; — The semi-colon is a stodgy pace-killer. If you’re writing genre fiction, avoid them or minimize them.
  • ! — Exclamation points are often overused. They’re like poking the reader in the eye. Suggestion: one per short story, up to three in a novel.
  • began to, started to — Unless it’s important to emphasize the initiation of an action, you can usually cut these phrases.
  • tried to, attempted to — This can stay if it’s followed by the failure of an action: “She tried to call him, but the phone was dead.” Otherwise, cut it.
  • degree words — a bit, a little, fairly, somewhat, sort of, kind of, quite, rather, slightly, just, pretty, very, almost, maybe. Cut.
  • even — Overused junk word. Cut.
  • eyes — Avoid traveling eyes and other autonomous body parts. Instead of “Her eyes swept the room” (Oh, really? Did those eyeballs use a broom?) use “gaze” instead (“Her gaze swept the room.”). When describing the viewpoint character’s action, not “His hands groped for the light switch,” but rather “He groped for the light switch.” Characters have agency, not their body parts.
  • filtering verbs — considered, decided, discovered, felt, figured, guessed, heard, knew, looked at, noticed, realized, saw, smelled, spotted, tasted, thought, touched, wondered. If you want to create an immersive reading experience with an intimate POV, recast these as described in the linked article and the articles mentioned.
  • hopefully
  • in front of — “Before” is more concise and dumps the prepositions.
  • just — Overused junk word. Cut.
  • out of — “From” is more concise.
  • perhaps
  • really
  • stuff
  • suddenly, abruptly, immediately, instantly, rapidly, unexpectedly, quickly
  • that — This can often be cut.
  • the fact that
  • it is, there was, there were
  • thing/s

A few previous posts cover some topics in detail:

If you need developmental or line editing for your dark fiction, check out Professional Editing Service.

Tagged , , ,

How to Work with an Editor

This was some good advice for all you writers paling at your editor’s comment balloons and tracked changes.

Bill and Dave’s Bad Advice Wednesday: “How to Work with an Editor.”

Tagged , , , , ,

Ferreting Out Filter Words

I recently encountered a post on Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s blog, Write It Sideways. It’s about filter words, character POV observations that create an extra layer of perception that distances your reader from what’s happening in your narrative.

The Filtered View

Susan Dennard explains in The Writing Life: “Filters are words or phrases you tack onto the start of sentence that show the world as it is filtered through the main character’s eyes.” For example:

Henry saw the rack of magazines along the back wall of the convenience store.

If you’re telling the story from within Henry’s POV, why announce his perceptions? Filtering creates a view of narrative action like the security camera in the front corner of the store. If you’re telling the story from Henry’s POV, inside his head, move the camera behind his eyes and simply report what he sees:

The rack of magazines stood along the back wall.

Sometimes you want to draw attention to a character’s perception process, and in these cases it’s acceptable to use a filter word. But in most instances, filtering is unnecessary and should be edited out.

Watch out for “realized.” Instead of “She wondered if he was on his way home,” turn the wondering into a question: “Was he on his way home?”

If filtering is an issue for you in your fiction writing, I encourage you to read Suzannah’s and Susan’s original posts, linked above. And check out two more great articles on the subject by Tracie McBride and Leslie.

If you need some editing help, let me know.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: