This popular post first published on February 18. We are sharing some of our past favorites this month so that all our contributors have time to enjoy the holiday season.
I’m fine-tuning the novel I just finished writing, and these are some of the edits I’m consistently making. They can help you as you write or edit your own novel.
1. Get rid of unnecessary prepositional phrases. When you read back through your manuscript, watch for phrases like on the table, toward the door, near the wall. These phrases bog down your writing and often add little to a description. Readers can make a lot of assumptions. If two guys are standing in the driveway talking and one points at the tires, readers will assume you mean on the car. You don’t have to say it.
This is especially true at the end of sentences. A good sentences ends on a strong beat. That sentence is a great of example of what I mean. If I had added usually at the end of that sentence, it would have weakened it. In my manuscript, I came across this sentence: Katie put her waffle down on the paper in her lap. Ick!
I took off the first unnecessary phrase, then the second. Then I moved the word down to where it belongs—after the verb directing it. Now it reads: Katie put down her waffle. Much better! Nobody cares where the waffle went. The sentence is meant to show that what Katie is about to say is so important she wants no distractions.
2. Get rid of unnecessary pronouns. Here’s how a sentence in this blog read until I edited it: If two guys are standing in the driveway talking and one of them points at the tires, readers will assume you mean on the car. I took out of them. Readers know I meant the two guys, and the sentence reads better without the phrase. Other examples are phrases like himself or to me. Often you’ll discover they are unnecessary.
3. Be careful when using pronouns. I’ve gotten much better about this thanks to Stephen King’s On Writing, but I still see the problem in the fiction manuscripts I edit for others. In a confrontation scene with three guys, for example, the writer will use he and his repeatedly. It’s confusing. In these situations, be redundant, regardless of whose POV you’re writing from. Use each man’s name every time you refer to him. Readers will appreciate it.
Jake picked up the gun and aimed it at Seth. Seth ran for the door, while Carl yelled, “Don’t do this.” Jake lowered the gun. Carl lunged at a Jake. Seth kept running.
Even a single use of he in that paragraph could have made it hard to follow.
What are you catching in your writing as you go back and edit?