Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tighten Up Your Manuscript!

I'm in the final, final, final phase of editing my manuscript - well, until an editor realizes my brilliance and wants to buy it. THEN, I'll be happy to revise and edit all they want, LOL!

Anyway, as I read through a blog by
Rachelle Gardner, an agent with WordServe Literary, I came across this great editing exercise relevant to my last check through. Rachelle has the most amazing blog for writers, packed with info pertinent to beginners as well as advanced. This particular post occupied her Monday, August 17, 2009 slot.

Go visit her blog, you'll not regret it!

Tighten Up Your Manuscript!

There comes a time in every writer’s life when an editor requires them to reduce their word count. Ack! Not my precious words! Even if an editor hasn't asked you to do this, most writers would benefit from tightening up their manuscripts before submission. (I, for one, would appreciate it. ) But how do you do this?

Never fear. Most writers can significantly shorten their manuscript simply by eliminating extraneous adverbs, adjectives, gerunds, and passive verbs, i.e. things you don't need anyway. If you cut 10 words per page in a 350-page manuscript, you’ve already shortened it by 3,500 (unnecessary) words.

So how do we do this? Here’s a checklist of things to consider cutting:

→ Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings. Ask yourself if they’re necessary.
→ Adjectives. Often people use two or three when one or none is better.
→ Gerunds. Words that end in “ing.”
→ Passive voice: Over-use of words like “was,” "were" and "that" indicate your writing may be too passive. Reconstruct in active voice.
→ Passages that are overly descriptive.
→ Passages that describe characters' thoughts and feelings in too much detail (i.e. long sections of narrative or interior monologue).
→ Passages that tell the reader what they already know.
→ Unnecessary backstory.

Here’s a list of words to watch for. Carefully consider their necessity and effectiveness:

about, actually, almost, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

(Make use of the “search and replace” function in Word to help with this process if there are specific words you tend to overuse.)

Once you go through this exercise, you'll find your manuscript remarkably cleaner. Try to have fun with it!

And remember, no matter how many words you're able to cut, your editor will always find more.

Didn't I tell you she had great stuff?


  1. The AutoCrit Editing Wizard can help you find these problems really easily. It all appears in one easy report. I love it.

  2. Great suggestion, Janine. I'll have to investigate it!