This blog entry is for my good friend Kristen, who keeps me company with frequent texts while I’m editing, and keeps me positive with thoughts like, “What are you editing now? It was already good.” (Because she helped make it good with editing).
Well, Kristen, since you asked, I hereby dedicate an entire SERIES of blogs to you! This being the first. Anyone else who wants to eavesdrop, feel free.
The best editing is when I watch football, because I can’t just watch a game—I get too nervous. It’s a good time to go through the sometimes tedious process of checking every instance of certain words in the find/next function in Word. It doesn’t always require 100% of my brain function.
This is the process I went through with book 1, and I made a list of words I check in this blog: http://bradleylloyd.com/?p=326. I’ve added more words since, so I had to go through book 1 again before I submitted the manuscript to the second publisher. Unfortunately, I missed a lot the first time around. I’ll now show you, dear Kristen, what this looks like for book 2, as I intend to be far more thorough. My examples are spoiler free in case anyone else wants to check it out.
KNOW (360 instances down to 298)
This is a good one, because editing it out can save a lot of words. You can’t always remove it, of course. Here it’s in dialog but I took it out of the narration. It’s unnecessary and creates more distance. Plus, the same word was used in succession, which is icky.
“I take it he doesn’t know you’re here,” Hale guessed. While Justin had said he wasn’t very comfortable talking about his family, Hale did know he didn’t want Gin anywhere near Scarecrow.
“I take it he doesn’t know you’re here.” Justin had said he wasn’t very comfortable talking about his family, and didn’t want Gin anywhere near Scarecrow.
Hale honestly didn’t know how much Justin had shared with Gin about the nature of their relationship. He was guessing she knew quite a bit, but he couldn’t assume anything. This was tricky.
This was awkward. How much had Justin shared with Gin about the nature of their relationship? Perhaps quite a bit, but Hale couldn’t assume anything.
KNEW (176 instances down to 122)
Same as above, so here are some shorter examples. It doesn’t seem like much, but keeps the reader one step closer to the narrator. Taking out little words can make the manuscript thousands of words shorter, and therefore tighter.
Rationally, he knew the guy deserved no less.
Rationally, the guy deserved no less.
—but he knew it would be too late.
—but it would be too late.
PROBABLY (66 instances down to 40)
I used this word much less than I did in book 1, so I’m becoming more cognizant of it. It’s not always incorrect, but often another word is more precise, such as undoubtedly or maybe. You can frequently just ditch it. In both of the following examples, it’s redundant. It’s implied in the question, and then repeats the implication of the word still.
Things would probably go back to normal before too long, right?
Things would go back to normal before too long, right?
Still, he should probably ask questions.
Still, he should ask questions.
SEEMED (145 instances down to 70)
This one is used a lot with a close third person narrator to keep perspective, because you can’t know for sure what any other character is thinking—you can only interpret through the main character. Sometimes, appeared or looked was a more precise word. If it’s the narrator’s direct thoughts, though, you can just get rid of it.
A damp stickiness seemed to fill the air, giving a thickness to every breath.
A damp stickiness filled the air, giving a thickness to every breath.
It was becoming clear from her tone that Gin didn’t seem to like him much.
It was becoming clear from her tone that Gin didn’t like him much.