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Self Editing Tips – 2# – Bin “then”.. and other words

September 8, 2010
Mac OS X trash icon when it contains files.
Turf or Trash those rubbish words

Self editing involves the ability to look at ones work with an impersonal eye, becoming detached from those precious words you as a writer slaved over. A skill required if you are to take your place as a writer seriously, Self Editing and redrafting opens your  eyes to all the lazy, flabby words we are all guilty of using.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my terrible writing habits; and ways I use in the attempt to tighten my work.

Annihilate the words ‘that’, ‘then’ , ‘there are’ or ‘there is’ or ‘to be.’ .  Its a rare piece of text which requires either of these words to show up regularly or as a valuable or necessary participant. There are always better ways to write sentence without having to use those phrases.

Step One.

Use the “find” feature on your word processing to identify your key word and phrases.

Step Two

Read the sentence which utilises those ‘dirty’ words.  Force them to plea for their inclusion. Rewrite the phrase or sentence without those words.

This type of self editing will make your writing more action packed and creative. These words and phrases pack on unnecessary bulk and are a great way to slice your word count in your first ‘go over’.

For some writers self editing is a painful process and one that they try to avoid.  However, I am reminded by a famed quote ( which I can’t attribute at the moment)  which states the best stories are not written; they are re-written.

Image via Wikipedia

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Annie Evett is excited about the big collaborative writing project –Choose Your Online Adventure about to be launched. . but groaning at the amount of editing which it will involve. Stalk Annies shameless self promotions here on Twitter  or here on Audio Boo and start your escape into her world here
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  1. September 8, 2010 5:37 am

    Very useful article, Annie.
    Firstly, I chose a short story I am writing. There were initially 15,966 words.
    I tried the “find” feature idea and searched for “then”. I found twenty (24). Twenty (20) were appropriate in their settings.
    I removed three (3) entirely, and replaced one (1) with a trio of more suitable words (“returned almost immediately”).
    In my short story, there are currently, 15,965 words.
    Hmm! I don’t seem to have reduced the bulk by too much.

  2. September 8, 2010 7:38 am

    ahh well Ian.. we can’t all be first draft gods! ha ha… I’m impressed you only found that many in your text.. well done!
    Keep checking back each week – I’ll share a few more ways to trim words… and please – if you have any tips of your own – share them with us!!

  3. September 8, 2010 8:22 am

    Did not think about the “find” feature as a way to help with editing. Good idea. Yes, it’s amazing how often those “dirty” words sneak into the writing. They’re very good at camouflage. I love self-editing. Many times, after several revisions, I find the story I did not realize I was writing all along!

    And Michael Crichton, the science fiction novelist, is the writer whom you are quoting.

  4. Kay Tee permalink
    September 8, 2010 8:30 pm

    A quicker way to find these words (and a bunch of others) is to use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It makes editing WAY easier and WAY faster!

  5. September 9, 2010 7:46 am

    Thank you, Annie. I would love to share any tips of my own; unfortunately I don’t have any. I just start writing and it all “comes out”… I have deplorable typographical skills, and maybe correcting as I go is some sort of editing, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?
    I think my mind is doing all the preparation all the time, whether I am asleep or awake. I hardly ever edit. This may be just arrogance, but no one has told me that… yet.
    Kay Tee, I just had a quick look at the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. I don’t like spending money unnecessarily, and I found it a bit bleak (Maybe I didn’t give it much of a chance).
    No, I love your idea, Annie, and I’ll stick with it… if only to reassure myself that I think I’m perfect!

  6. September 12, 2010 7:45 pm

    Ian: can I suggest typing in “that” and seeing how many come up and how many really have to stay. I think “that” is a far nastier word demon (sucking time and useful space) compated with”then”.

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