This weekend I spent a lot of time editing my manuscript. As I said last week, I had to stop and take a step back from it in order to check that I was going in the right direction. I decided to start editing from the beginning, especially after giving the first few thousand words to my writing group and getting feedback on it (terrifying prospect, but wonderfully positive). So after adding to and cutting words, I don’t know if I ended the week on a net loss of words. That’s ok though because I am happy with the way it is shaping up.
I have been focusing on adverbs and clichés. I did a search of the text to find all the words ending with ‘ly’ in order to check whether they were necessary or whether I had been lazy with my writing and could substitute them for something better. This took a while and I didn’t remove all of them because some are used in dialogue and I think if that’s the way someone speaks, then it’s ok to leave in. I don’t consciously check what I say to see if I’m using unnecessary adverbs, do you?
When it comes to clichés, I know from the professional edit of my manuscript that I used a number of them. What scares me most is that I don’t know the difference between clichés and every day language. Of course there are the blindingly obvious ones that everyone knows: ‘opposites attract’, ‘as old as the hills’, ‘all is fair in love and war’, ‘the writing is on the wall’, but there are so many more. In fact, I did a search and found a blog post that lists over 600 of them, written in alphabetical order and that is not a definite list. How are you supposed to refer between a list of that length and your own text? It could take forever.
‘Needless to say’ ‘for some curious reason’ I’ve used ‘a number of’ clichés in my writing ‘without thinking’. ‘Little did I know’ that ‘things were getting out of hand’ and ‘it came as no surprise’ that by removing them, my writing had the potential to be ‘better than ever’.
Ok, so this sentence might be a little over-the-top, but I wrote it to make a point. They are all common, everyday phrases that editors can’t stand and I personally think that spotting them can be tricky.
In my determination to find an easier way to find the clichés in my writing, I came across a website that has an Editing programme. It allows you to upload a maximum of 1000 words at a time for free (more if you pay to become a premium member) and get an analysis on it. The programme checks the grammar, sticky sentences, overused words, redundancies and clichés. This is such a useful tool for doing early editing. Yes, I did have some clichés in there and yes, they were ones that I would never have picked up on my own. They were things like ‘thank goodness’ and ‘wait and see’ – both of these were used in dialogue as well.
I’m glad I found this editing programme because I will definitely use it from now on. My plan is to edit as I go, to make it easier on myself in the long run. If I get the first three chapters polished, who knows, I may even send them out to an agent whilst I get on with the rest.
I know that this week’s What I’m Writing has a theme of ‘What I’m NOT Writing’ and I can say that although I’ve been writing, a lot of my week has been about removing or replacing words. Editing is tough, especially when you want to get on with writing your story, but doing it definitely helps you refine and focus, if nothing else.
How do you edit and what things do you look out for when you do?
Sharing this for What I’m Writing.