Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trim the Fat

It's that fat time of year. I don't know about you, but with all the Christmas cookies and parties galore, I'm pretty much living in stretchy pants for the season.

But that doesn't mean my manuscripts are porky . . . and neither should yours be. When writing a first draft, just like at Christmas, it's okay to indulge in some extras. But after you've typed The End and before you present your story to the world, it's time for a bit of fat trimming.

4 Ways to Trim the Fat Off Your Manuscript

Cut out repeat words/phrases.
Everyone's got pet words and phrases. I happen to like "give it a whirl" or "seriously." Sometimes I even hit a great sale on words like "actually" or "indeed." That's fine for when you're pounding out the first go-around of your story, but afterwards you need to get in there and delete them. You can save 1 or 2 but that's it. Be ruthless.

Go light on the adjectives.
Every junior high grammar teacher drills it into our skulls that adjectives are our friends. I'm here to say that nope, they are not. Use one adjective per description and leave it at that. If you really need to describe a noun with more modifiers than that, then write a whole new sentence describing it in a different way.

Backstory is salt.
Ever salted your popcorn too much? Yeah. Blechh. That's how it is with too much backstory. Sprinkle it around the story. Don't dump it all in one place, and especially not at the beginning. Keep the intrigue. Readers love to figure things out bit by bit.

Weed the dialogue.
Listen to your next conversation. Do you speak in complete sentences all the time? I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that no, you don't. You sometimes use slang. Sometimes just a word or two. Maybe even a grunt instead of a word. That's how dialogue should be between your characters.

Usually you've only got one shot to impress an agent or editor. Trim these four areas of fat from your writing and you'll be one step closer to dazzling a potential buyer.


chappydebbie said...

Great writerly advice.

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