Monday, September 19, 2011

Simple Fixes → Big Improvements

The right word choice can tighten up your writing and make it flow. A recent reminder of this struck me as I went through some rewrites. Using more words than needed is a common mistake—but also an easy fix. Here are some examples:

Food started to sound good to me. → Food sounded good to me.
I pretended to look at something else. → I looked elsewhere.
She was going to be next. → She would be next.
I didn’t want to risk being seen. → I couldn’t risk being seen.

Each of these examples has something in common besides being shortened. The little word “to” following the first verb weakens the next verb that I’d rather emphasize. I don’t want a character to merely “begin to" do something. I want her to do it. This improves the drama and pacing of the writing. Make use of your Find and Replace Box to catch these simple errors. Type a space before and after ( to ) so you don't get every word containing those two letters. Beleive me, there will be enough of them without finding things you don't want.


Heather Cashman said...

This is great advice. I actually go back in revisions and do searches for words like "started" or "feel" that I often use as extras. My debut novel is a YA named Perception (The Tigers' Eye Trilogy, Book 1). I have to follow you just for that reason alone. :)

Heather Cashman said...

Aaaagh! No way to join. Will bookmark. Please let me know when you get email subscription or networked blogs.

John Waverly said...

I also have a list of words I search for and replace when I edit. My editor also allows me to list the words I use most often, when I find "to" or "was" in the list I go back and fix it.

This also reminded me of a great quote by Mark Twain. "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Renae W. Mackley said...

Heather, I tried to fix the Follower problem but not sure if it worked. I did move my Networked Blogs button up further to where you can see it. Please check back if you have trouble; I'm working on it. I'll have to check out your book.
John, I liked the Twain quote.

Cathy Witbeck said...

I always look for 'that'. It seems to get overused. I think of saw, felt and heard as filter verbs that pull you out of the scene, but I hadn't thought of 'to' following the verb. It's something I'll have to watch for. Thanks.

Stephanie Black said...

I think even after I'm a little old lady and have written 50 books, I will STILL be weeding out weak structures when I'm revising! It's the never-ending battle.

Renae W. Mackley said...

So true, Stephanie. "That" is a common one among others. I'm so glad to have modern technology to search these for me. Good luck in your revisions, everyone!

Jamie Brook Thompson said...

I love the advice! Thanks! This is a common mistake of mine! Here's to starting a new day of condensed writing! Opps, I did it again. I mean here's to a new day of writing! I just followed you on networked blogs. You can follow me on Jamie Brook Thompson at blogspot.