I’m knee-deep in revisions on my 2nd contracted novel, and I’m in the “pre-editing” stage. This is where I go through my manuscript and search out a wide variety of phrases that need to be changed, or eliminated altogether. Once this is done, my editor and I will begin the ACTUAL editing phase.
To give you all a sense, I have almost 2 months to complete the pre-edits. That’s a decent amount of time, because there are a LOT of these babies to look at. And in combing my manuscript, time and time again – for overused phrases, errant adverbs, and bulky sentences – I’ve realized just how much FILLER I use in writing.
Filler words aren’t necessarily a good thing in fiction. In fact, they tend to overburden our stories, essentially “filling” it with useless information, interjections, and more. Once it’s trimmed out, the story reads smoother, tighter and with much more impact.
Instead of generating some obviously exaggerated examples to demonstrate the point, I want to use actual, pre-edited quotes from my manuscript. I’ll provide a few examples below.
He’d gathered, from the few words and her general demeanor, that the night hadn’t gone well
Here, I can cut out ‘between them’ because it’s referencing something that’s already implied, I.E. the fact that the night hadn’t gone well between the heroine and a love interest.
She looked groggy
still,and stumbled to the front room. She collapsed on the couch opposite him.
Here, I can cut out “still,” to make the sentence more compact and active. But we can take it a step further.
She looked groggy
still,and stumbled to the front room. Shecollapsed on the couch opposite him.
We might not need the directive “she stumbled into the front room” because the fact that she collapses onto the couch implies that she has moved into the front room. Also, it eliminates the word “She” starting two sentences in a row. The sentence reads tighter as, “She looked groggy, collapsing on the couch opposite him”.
“Let’s set it out to sea and hire a bunch of old creepy sailors,” Trent
said, appraisingappraised the word ‘soupgasm’ across the street one last time.
Here, I’ve decided to eliminate the dialogue tag. I did this because the dialogue both preceding and following this bit had “So-and-so SAID” as a tag. When taken overall (though you can’t necessarily see it here), it’s obvious that “he said/she said” is being overused. I tried to shake it up by changing some of these to ACTIONS that clarify (via implying) who is doing the speaking. Additionally, I cut “one last time”; maybe I’ll put in the word ‘again’. Simpler!
These are just some of the examples from my current manuscript — and believe me, there are THOUSANDS of occurrences like these!
I’ve been writing for almost 20 years now, and these fine-tuning, tweaking edits still have room to improve. But hey, I’m working on it!
Share your own editing flubs, dialogue disasters, and adverb gaffes below, so we feel less alone about it!