Friday, August 22, 2008

The Self Edit in a Nutshell

"Do it right the first time. Don't skip a step, or you will pay later. Note: if you use a computer, use the `find' feature available in most word processing programs to search for some of these items. See your individual program instructions for directions on how to do this. If you prefer to work with hard copy (paper), get different colored highlighters and use them to mark the offending passages.


Did you plot the rollercoaster of the Plot W?
Is there an opening hook in the first chapter?
Is there a closing hook at the end of each chapter?
EDITS System. (I will post this later.)
Read it out loud.
Did you backload?
Contractions?
Spell check! Grammar check!
Metaphors, clich├ęs, and similes?
Where are the six senses in every scene?
Do you have flying body parts? (ie rolling eyeballs).
Get rid of `ly' words. These weak modifiers can be replaced with
stronger verbs and nouns. They often indicate areas where you
are `telling' and not `showing' as in the following examples:
a. Weak: Sam walked clumsily over the broken bricks.
b. Better: Sam stumbled over the broken bricks.

. Don't start sentences with `ing' words. They can lead to confusing
or impossible phrasing:
a. Weak: Putting his cup of coffee on the roof of the car, John drove
off. (How can he put his cup of coffee on the top of the car and
drive off at the same time - unless he's in the car and setting it
out through the window while driving - which makes even less sense.)
b. Better: John set his coffee on the roof of the car, dug out his
keys, and opened the door. A minute later, the forgotten coffee cup
became just another piece of litter tumbling down the street.

· Don't modify things that shouldn't be modified: unique, slightly
impossible, mostly alone, endlessly eternal. Unique, impossible,
alone, eternal and other words like them are ultimate words. Nothing
else is necessary to explain them. If someone is alone, there is no
one else with him. If another joins him, he is no longer alone.

· Look for redundancies: stood up (stood or arose), sat down (sat),
looked up at the sky (looked at the sky), little Chihuahua (this dog
is known for its small size so the `little' is not necessary), green
in color (green).

· Look for passive words or phrases and change them to active:
a. Weak: There was no way for us to get through the gate.
b. Better: We couldn't find a way to get through the gate.

Kind of, sort of, almost, maybe, somehow, -ing, be, been, being, are, was, is, will be, had, am, were, have

· Delete implied `that':
a. Weak: We thought that she was coming early.
b. Better: We thought she was coming early.

· Simplify. Unless you're writing a treatise on rocket science,
don't use words that require the reader to go searching for a
dictionary. If they have to figure out what you mean, you've lost
them. Remember that simple doesn't mean dull. Dance is dull, caper or
boogie is simple but interesting, terpsichorean is over the top.

· Look for repetitions, not only in words, but also in character
movements, multiple names or places all beginning with the same
letters, multiple paragraphs beginning with the same word(s). Try not
to use the same major word twice in the same paragraph:
a. Word stutter: That was the hardest test I've ever taken. What
did you think of the test?
b. Better: That was the hardest test I've ever taken. What did you
think of it?

· Get rid of weak words. The following list contains weak words
that need to be changed to stronger ones. This is by no means a
complete list, but it will get you started on the right path. Search
for these words and either use a different word or rewrite the
sentence in a stronger way.
Somewhat perhaps nearly very only
Just suddenly almost should would
Could feel/felt begin/began rather few
Seem appear quite really always

· Use contractions where appropriate for a friendlier tone. Have, could, would, are, will
Unless you're listing a series of at least three, too many commas mean that you have a dreaded run on sentence that needs to be rewritten to begin with. (Linda K)

. The word something! He does something to me. - what does he do? He makes me feel something I've never felt before - What WHAT??? What does he make you feel? Does he give you the shivers, make you hot, make you tired, make you want to dance? I almost think of this as a cop-out on the authors part - the author needs to describe something,

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Thanks for popping by! Don't sit on the whipping horse unless you want to find out how it's used. I speak my mind and annoy many people, but all of it is meant in good spirit. Feel free to argue with me. I like it.

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Lena