There exist any number of “rules” for writers to follow when editing their novels and though I’ll pass along some of those, let’s begin with a couple lesser know tips. You can read more editing tips in one of my earlier articles here or at this post on Bukisa.com.
Edit for words that end in “-ition” or “-ization” or “-ment.”
Here’s an example of how that works. The sentence, “I worked it to its completion,” can be reduced to “I completed the work,” without any loss of meaning. By simply eliminated the “-tion” and similar words, our writing becomes more crisp.
Edit for verbs used as nouns. Think how you might clarify this sentence. “I offered the answer earlier.” For more precise writing, it should read “I answered earlier.” The revised sentence enriches the action of the verb, “answer”, and reduces the wordiness.
Keep an eye out for words that duplicate meanings. For example, consider the following list I found at http://www.lincoln.edu and you’ll see the how the word(s) in parentheses do not enhance the meaning of the other word(s).
(actual) experience add (an additional)
(advance) planning (advance) reservations
(advance) warning all meet (together)
(as) for example ask (a question)
at (the) present (time) (basic) fundamentals
came (at a time) when (close) proximity
(close) scrutiny collaborate (together)
(completely) filled consensus (of opinion)
(definite) decision (difficult) dilemma
(direct) confrontation during (the course of)
(end) result enter (in)
estimated at (about) estimated (roughly)
(false)pretenses few (in number)
filled (to capacity) (first) began
for (a period of) 10 days (foreign) imports
forever (and ever) (free) gift
(invited) guests join (together)
(major) breakthrough merged (together)
(new) beginning (past) history
(past) records plan (ahead)
(possibly) might postpone (until later)
protest (against) repeat (again)
same (identical) since (the time when)
spell out (in detail) (still) remains
(suddenly) exploded (therapeutic) treatment
2 a.m. (in the morning) (unexpected) surprise
(unintentional) mistake (usual) custom
You know those “wordy phrases” we hear so much about? Here are some samples to purge with some appropriate substitutes.
at all times – always at the present time – now
at that point in time – then beyond a shadow of a doubt – without doubt
due to the fact that – because for the purpose of – for
in connection with – with in most instances – most oftenin order to – to
in some instances – sometimes in spite of the fact that – although
in the event that – if on an everyday basis – routinely
on a daily basis – daily subsequent to – after
the reason is because – because
Other general editing tips you don’t regularly hear include:
- Edit early in the day.
- Edit a single issue at a time.
- Print your manuscript and read every word aloud to someone else.
- Use a straight edge under each line as you read to edit.
- Read each sentence as an individual paragraph, as if there is an enter stroke after the line.
- Have someone read it out loud to you.
- Be certain you consider every instance of the verb, “to be.” (See this post for more information.)
- Don’t edit under fluorescent lighting. (Bet you’ve never heard that one before.)
- Write one day and edit another.
- Editing should reduce your manuscript’s length.
- Check your checker. “Read” and “red” are both accepted by your spellchecker.
- Remember, grammar checkers know grammar but they don’t understand grammar.
I hope this helps you polish your novel and one of these is THE tip that secures representation for you.
As always, I wish you only best-sellers.
C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”