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The Hall of Shame- Self Editing Tips 4#

October 13, 2010

Little girl, with sunsuit slipping off her sho...

The Hall of Writers Shame is littered with procrastination, good intentions, lazy and flabby texts and bad habits.

I am sure there is a saying – a guilty secret shared is a guilty secret halved?? In any case, I thought I’d reveal some of my bad habits. You know – those indignant stayers who hide in my toolbox, sneaking into my text and first drafts?

These may serve as reminders for you when self editing. (or as fodder to poke fun at me at a later date)

One of my most common crimes involve action clauses that use ‘ing’ or ‘as.’ For example: “Disappearing into my room, I slipped into my dress.”
Read it a few times and you’ll see that sentence is impossible. I can’t disappear as well as slip into a dress at the same time. ‘Ing’ or ‘as’ clauses represent parallel actions. When self editing ensure the two actions connected by these clauses can be done at the same time.

Particularly if you are looking to shave words and tighten the structure of a sentence, remove all the ‘its’, ‘thats’, ‘was’s’ and ‘hads’ you can. They have the tendency to weaken your narrative. Although you can’t take them all out, if you remove a large percentage of them, then your text will appear more sophisticated.

Many professional editors will suggest that you remove as many of the ‘ly’ verbs, replacing them with action words. To tighten your narrative, look at the reason you use those ‘ly’ verbs and then look for other ways to express the same message.

An example of this might be – “Angrily she put the plate down onto the table.”

This might be changed to: “She slammed the plate onto the table.”

The character is demonstrating her emotions, but in a more subtle way. You are also treating your reader with a little more respect and allowing them to visualise the scene.

When trying to cut words, look for unintentional repetition. Often the text may describe a character or setting more than once in a short space.

Other times, the same word may be repeated too closely together in a paragraph.

Look for the sneaky double ups – those common redundancies most of us tend to gloss over. Examples might include pregnant woman, dead corpse,  gathered together, sink down, climbed upwards. If one word will do,then just use one.

Habits, we all have them. Some of them support and some of them hinder our journey. So tell me.. what might some of your “bad’ writing habits be?

This forms part 4 of a short series on self editing.

Embarrassed Girl Image via Wikipedia

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4 Comments
  1. Laura Rachel Fox permalink
    October 13, 2010 7:47 am

    Thanks for sharing these. It’s good to know others are struggling with the same stumbling blocks. I didn’t even realize the faux pas I was committing with the “ing” action clause. Those things are all over the place in my writing. Good to know!!

  2. Tiffany permalink
    October 14, 2010 10:06 am

    Love these posts. I go back and read my latest piece to see what needs fixing whenever I read tips like this from here. I won’t even tell you how many was’s there are in the one I am working on now! Trying to fix. Very tough to get rid of those! Any suggestions?

  3. October 14, 2010 1:01 pm

    Oh, great tips! It makes me want to edit all my fiction, again, but it’s not time for the inner-editor yet!🙂

  4. Kay Tee permalink
    October 14, 2010 2:54 pm

    The AutoCrit Editing Wizard is a great partner for finding these problems — it won’t let you pretend they don’t exist. It automatically finds all the issues mentioned, plus a bunch more. I love it. It really helps me tighten my writing.

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