Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the most common mistakes I see in the manuscripts I edit.
Cutting the Fat in Your Manuscript
The tighter your writing, the more publishers—and readers—will like it. One way to tighten your manuscript is to do what I call a Scissors Edit. Cut out everything that doesn’t absolutely need to be in the manuscript. Here are a few ways to cut the “fat” without losing the important stuff.
Change multi-word phrases to single words. For example:
at this point in time (now)
due to the fact that (because)
have an expectation (expect)
in the near future (soon)
it is clear that (clearly)
make an arrangement (arrange)
with regard to (about)
made the decision (decided)
in spite of the fact that (although)
has a tendency (tends)
poured down rain outside (rained)
Change multi-word verb phrases to single descriptive verbs.
Avoid overuse of adverbs, especially –ly words (like especially). Search your manuscript for words ending in “-ly.” You’ll probably find a lot of them, most of which can be deleted.
Examples: basically, definitely, exactly, highly, really, simply, truly, utterly
A good, strong verb is always preferred over a weak verb with an adjective. Replace verb phrases with single action verbs wherever possible. For example, what single verb could you use to replace “walked slowly”? (stalked, straggled, ambled, strolled, wandered, lumbered, padded, plodded, trudged) How about “walked quickly”? (barreled, bustled, darted, hurried, jogged, raced, ran, scurried, sprinted) Each word carries a slightly different connotation.
Cut out “action delays.”
- Rather than say that someone “began to” do something, just show them doing it.
- Instead of telling the possible (“He could sense that nobody believed him”), show the actual (“He sensed nobody believed him”).
- Instead of “He decided to go,” just write “He went” . . . unless he decided to go and then didn’t.
If you have a hard time finding things to cut in your manuscript, consider hiring a professional freelance editor. He or she will be able to see your writing more objectively and therefore help you find things that don’t really need to be in the book.
If you’re interested in working with a freelance editor (or know someone who is), e-mail me through the contact page of my website. Or go to the Christian Editor Connection to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. If you’re a freelance editor yourself, or think you might be interested in that field, check out The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.
And when you’re ready to proofread your manuscript, consider getting a copy of my book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. It reveals how multi-published authors proofread their manuscripts to avoid typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website.