It can be hard to trim your novel down to size. How can you cut out thousands of words without losing key scenes, beautiful dialogue and perfect setting descriptions? There’s lots of methods, but one of the easiest is to cut 1 word from each paragraph.
Editing is all about trying to see the story that’s on the page, not the story in your head. You can attain greater objectivity by changing the font or not looking at your story for a few weeks, but when it comes to the actual changing of the words, there’s another trap many writers fall into. The trap is that you’ll simply skim through your chapters, changing maybe one word a page, and reach the end feeling like you’ve accomplished something. In reality, you’ve probably made your story only slightly better. As busy writers, slightly better isn’t a great result for the amount of time you’ve used.
Fear not! There is a better way: Instead of editing the way you read, edit backwards.
The key to editing lies in being able to read your work with fresh eyes. You can attain emotional separation and thus objectivity in several ways and I’ve written about one possible method before.
However, there’s a ridiculously easy way to boost your objectivity, which is so ridiculously easy that I am likely to be discharged from the Shadowy Cabal of Writers for disclosing such a secret. Prepare your soul, writer, for this tip:
change your font.
Redundancies are not very useful, make your writing bad and hurt your sentences. It’s easy for redundancies to creep or sneak or wheedle their way into your writing and your stories.
As you can probably tell, I went overboard with redundancies in the above paragraph. Most of the words didn’t contribute any meaning or value. Here’s the same paragraph without redundancies:
Redundancies make your writing bad. It’s easy for them to sneak into your writing.
Fewer words. Clearer meaning. Direct, powerful language. Your prose will be transformed when you cut out redundancies.
Types of Redundancies
Redundancies fall into two categories:
1. Redundant Phrases:
These are unnecessary phrases which are added to reinforce meaning. For instance, in this sentence:
It’s easy for redundancies to creep or sneak or wheedle their way into your writing
“sneak” and “wheedle” aim to reinforce the sense of intrusion. However, these phrases are redundant because “sneak” and “wheedle” are synonyms for “creep”. Thus, they add no extra value to the sentence.
2. Redundant Modifiers:
These attach to other words like parasitic blood-suckers, such as ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘armed gunman.’ I refer to Redundant Modifiers as parasites because they’ve wormed their way into the public consciousness. Next time you watch TV keep a count of how many times a product is called ‘absolutely essential’, even though ‘absolutely essential’ is the same as ‘essential.‘ By it’s very definition, you can’t make something that’s ‘essential’ more essential.
Why we use Redundancies:
Redundancies are like clichés. We hear them so often they ingrain themselves into the fabric of language like termites burrowing into an improperly treated 4 by 2. I’ll level with you: I hate redundancies. They’re unneccessary, clog up your writing and ultimately show a lack of creativity.
Chances are your first draft is littered with redundancies. Fear not: it’s easy to eliminate redundancies – provided you know what to look for.
Redundant Modifiers are easier to eliminate than Redundant Phrases, which typically require close editing to identify and destroy. This is because Redundant Modifiers tend to be commonly used, which means that a list of common redundancies will help you find them. I would write a list for you, but why bother when you can just use this list.
To tighten up your writing, pick one of redundancies on the list and use Word’s find feature. This will search through your story for instances of this redundancy. Once you’re done deleting one type of redundancy, pick the next one of the list and repeat the process. It’s a simple fix that requires little brainpower, but will do a lot to take your story to the next level. Happy editing!
What’s your opinion on redundancies? Do you tend to overuse them or are they not a problem for you? Is it ever okay to use a redundancy? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Completing an entire novel is an amazing achievement, but if you’re serious about getting published, finishing the first draft doesn’t mean you’re finished working on your novel. Here are three things you must do after finishing a first draft.
Step 1: Let it rest.
Like any decent roast, you must let your novel rest if you want it to gain quality flavour. Now, you’re probably wondering how not working on your novel will help. Here’s how: the novel in your head is not the novel on the page. The novel in your head has perfect dialogue, realistic characters and no plot holes. Unfortunately, the novel on the page doesn’t – and that’s okay! By leaving your novel alone for at least 1 or preferably 2 weeks, you’ll gain distance. This will let you edit more objectively. You’ll also be able to see things you haven’t noted before.
Step 2: Read the whole thing.
Once you’ve had a break from writing, you must read your entire first draft. Why, you ask? For the same reason the above step is important: the novel in your head is not the novel on the page. By reading through your novel you’ll know what’s actually on the page rather than just assuming.
After I’d finished the first draft of The Aeon Academy, I didn’t read it. I stupidly assumed that, as the novel’s creator, I knew exactly what happened in it! I couldn’t have been more wrong, and failing to better understand my novel meant the second draft was a tough, drawn-out edit. With subsequent drafts I’ve made sure to read them before diving into edits, and this has made editing way easier.
And if that argument doesn’t sway you, chew on this: if you can’t be bothered to read your own novel, why would anyone else read it?
Step 2.1: Take notes as you read:
As you read, you’re going to find parts you want to change. Take a note so you don’t forget about this when it comes time to edit.
Step 3: Edit
Once you’ve re-familiarised yourself with your masterful or not-so-masterful creation, it’s time to edit. Editing can seem like a chore, but in reality it’s quite liberating. You can edit your novel any way you want and if you find something you don’t like, you can change it!
Focus on one type of edit at a time. Rather than trying to improve dialogue, enhance characterisation or delete needless phrases at once, do each style of edit by itself. This will help keep you focussed and let you be more effective.
Always remember that a first draft is exactly that: a first attempt. Don’t worry if your novel seems bad compared to a published novel: that published novel would’ve gone through several drafts and professional edits. Your first draft is just you shovelling sand into a sandpit. Editing is where you build your castle.
Have you finished a first draft? What are your thoughts on re-writing and editing? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
Pet phrases are frequently-used expressions that slip into our writing without us even noticing. These repeated phrase are at best unnecessary and at worst distracting to readers.
Pet phrases are words that we like to write. A lot. Most of the time we don’t even notice writing them. Even if you’re looking out for them, they can take a lot of discipline to find.