Self editing tips to instantly improve your writing

Finished your first draft? Congratulations. Now the exciting part really begins: polishing and refining your manuscript to make it shine. As you edit,  applying these three tips will significantly improve the quality of your work.  Try them and see!

Take out weak words in the narrative that don’t advance plot or reveal character. Weak words include was, were, is, are, just, very, rather, began to, started to, somewhat.The screenwriter Sol Stein says that the more a writer tries to emphasize something, the less effective the writing becomes. Instead of describing a character as furious, peeved, and angry, think about the different message each word conveys, and use the the strongest one. Cut the others. Is Miss Madrigal angry, or is she so angry she is furious? Or is she merely peeved?

Eliminate adverbs. You’ve probably  heard this tip  a thousand times, but the reason you keep hearing it is that it works. Adverbs, by definition, modify verbs. Choose a stronger verb and eliminate the middle man! Instead of a character who walks slowly down the street, have him amble or meander. Instead of having your heroine run quickly from the building, have her race, or rush, or tear out of the building. When working to eliminate adverbs,  a good thesaurus is your best friend.

Take care when using the word “it’ at the beginning of a sentence. Look at the difference in these sentences. See which you think is stronger. It is hard to get a book contract these days. Or: Getting a book contract these days is not easy.

Next time: Tips for writing dialogue.