When I’m editing, and before I do a final read through and tweaking of my manuscript, I use Microsoft Word’s ‘find’ feature to search for the following ten words. These words can usually be deleted in order to tighten up the writing and focus on ‘showing vs telling’.
Sometimes ‘almost’ can work but often it’s not needed. Eg: With his sunken eyes and pallor he
almost looked like a ghost. An example where it may work could be: She almost slammed the door in his face. Or instead of that, it could be changed to: She resisted the urge to slam the door in his face.
Usually there is a stronger word available to replace the need for ‘very’, or the phrase can be changed completely to something else. Eg: ‘very sad’ could become ‘despondent’. Eg: It was very sunny. Better: It was sunny. Even better: She squinted as the sun’s glare rebounded off the pavement and hit her eyes.
When this is used alongside ‘to’, as in ‘started to’, it’s probably not needed. Eg: She started to get dressed. Better: She got dressed. Even better: She zipped her jeans and put on a t-shirt.
This is similar to ‘started’. Eg: It began to rain. Better: Droplets of rain dampened her hair, or: He flicked on the windscreen wipers as rain blurred the road ahead.
5. stood up
Remove the word ‘up’. If someone stood, it’s obviously up.
6. sat down
Remove the word ‘down’. If someone is going from a standing position to a sitting position it is obviously ‘down’. Except if the person is lying down and then changes to a sitting position.
Removing ‘heard’ or ‘hear’ gives the reader a more vivid experience. Eg: She heard someone call her name. Better: A voice called her name. Eg: I could hear the rain pelting against the window. Better: rain pelted against the window.
Same as with ‘heard’. Eg: She saw his face through the window. Better: His eyes glared at her through the window. Eg: I could see him coming towards me. Better: He came towards me.
Telling a reader what a character felt is not as powerful as showing them. Eg: She felt relaxed and happy. Better: She leaned back in the chair and a smile eased onto her face.
Eg: If she could
just find a way to get through to him, he might understand. Eg: “The shop is just around the corner.”
There are more suggestions of words to search for at this very useful site.
Have a search of your manuscript and see how many of these words you can find and change to improve your book.
Are there words that you often overuse in your writing?
P.S. – Interested in learning Juliet’s RAPID EDITING SYSTEM? Express your interest in her upcoming online course, “Editing Mojo”, starting in the first half of 2019! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Editing Mojo – notify me!
Write scary stuff that is.
As soon as I write or even think about something scary my mind becomes hypersensitive to anything and everything around me. I jump when the phone rings. I flinch when a strand of hair falls loose onto my cheek. I even gasp when the toast pops up (C’mon, I bet you’ve done that too, right?). Yet for some reason I’ve decided to create a ghost character in my new work-in-progress.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over to the dark side to write horror novels, I’m still writing humorous and heartwarming fiction. It’s just that I’ve thrown a ghost into the mix to liven things up in my story, appropriately titled: Haunted Housewives.
This is the second in my ‘Touch of Magic’ themed romantic comedy books, the first being Fast Forward (which involves time travel). My aim with these books is to create fun stories of modern life but with some sort of magical or paranormal twist.
So I thought a ghost would be a perfect inclusion into one of these stories to spice up the tension and create some funny scenarios.
Until freaky things started happening.
Since starting this story I have almost started a fire in the kitchen, had a plate slip right out of my hand and break even though I was sure I was holding it firmly, and opened the fridge to find the drink tray on the door filled to the brim with milk (almond milk – we don’t do dairy, but that’s another and totally irrelevant subject!). And my cat is acting like he’s possessed, biting me for no apparent reason. Okay, so those things could just be because I’m a worn out mother going on little sleep (and the milk was probably my son despite insisting he put the lid back on tightly and closed the door gently), but I’m a writer. I like to stretch the imagination a little. Or a lot. 🙂
But this is interesting... When I was deciding on a name for the main character, a name popped into my mind. I liked the first name but the surname didn’t feel completely right. I asked myself ‘What would a better surname be?’ and instantly another one came to me. I googled it. The name was the same name of a murder victim, and (with tears in my eyes) I read about her terrifying ordeal in an online newspaper. Then I gasped. The article mentioned a street name not far from her house which had the same name as the original surname I’d thought of.
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
I decided to keep the first name (Sally) for the character but change the surname to something different. However, I am thinking of dedicating this book to the woman who died to honour her memory.
So for the next few months or so, ghosts will be on my mind. I’ve always loved ghost stories and movies and television shows with ghosts in them, so I’m excited to be writing this ghostly character and seeing what mischief she gets up to and what challenging and funny situations she puts the main character into. It’s definitely not a spooky story by nature, but I hope there will be a few shocks and surprises throughout.
Do you have a favourite ghost story or movie?
Do you have any spooky experiences to share?
Oh, here’s another one… I didn’t even realise this blog post would be on Halloween! How appropriate. Happy Halloween! (And don’t visit my house for Trick or Treating because I’ve already eaten all the goodies. 😉