Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back to Basics

I'll admit I'm not one for rules. I don't like following them though I do usually attempt to find out what the rules are before I try to break them. But the past few weeks I've discovered a couple things I've ignored as "not for me"…well, they kind of are. Things that will make my writing tighter. Things that also take a lot of time, but them's the breaks, I guess. Part of doing what you love includes putting in a lot of hours to ensure your words come across the way you intended them to.

Some rules still confound me, I'll admit, and I worked as an editor for an e-publisher for two years and so far, as a proofreader at a newspaper for eleven. So I thought I'd share two tips for tightening your writing that I've been confronted with in my latest batch of edits
1) Get rid of words you don't need. Even ones you like, such as "even." I love "even". We're bff's. I'm also quite enamored of "little", "always", "exactly", "all but", "besides", "though" and probably a dozen others I repeat without knowing it. Clean writing is the goal and cluttering up your sentences lessens their impact. It also leaves you with a ton of edits from your editor. *waves hand*

2) Break the "was" habit. It's not always passive voice, but that doesn't mean you need them all the time. I like "was" almost as much as "even." One thing I've noticed while doing my many edits recently is that I tend to drop into "was" territory when I start telling and not showing. You need some of them in your story for sure, just don't them overpower the soup. Sometimes you can replace was with a more active construction. Example: She was jumping rope. Becomes this: She jumped rope. Fewer words, punchier sentence.

What crutch words do you find yourself returning to again and again? Do you have any tricks to make self-editing less painful?


Sharon S. said...

I am very fond of "very" ;)

Cari Quinn said...

Sharon, me too! Definitely one of my favorites.

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