Tips For Editing Your Story

Tips for Editing Your Story (1)Since I’m headed into the last round of edits on City of Deception, I thought it fitting to have a post about editing.  The truth is I hate editing.  It is my least favorite part of the writing process.

Over the years, I’ve tried numerous editing methods, but after several years I finally narrowed down my method.

First, I use a program called Grammarly.  It helps me catch simple mistakes before I pass my manuscripts off to my editor. If you want to check it out, click here. I’ll also be writing a post about Grammarly soon.

Besides Grammarly, here are my basic tips:

  1. Cut Filler Words

Take out words such as only, very, that, and just. You can replace very with stronger words. (Do a Google search for “replacement words for very” and you’ll find lots of ideas.)  Also watch out for too many -ly words, like quickly, loudly, and extremely.

2. Take Out Unnecessary Scenes

I’ll admit I’ve had to take out a fair number of scenes in City of Deception I liked but had enough sense to realize they didn’t add much value to the story. Fall in love with your story, but stay critical enough to know when a scene needs to be taken out.

Make sure not to delete the scene completely. Add it to another Word doc and name it something like “Cut Scenes.” There’s been more than once when I’ve recycled a scene in another story.

3. Kill Darlings

“Killing your darlings” is a writing phrase you might have heard.  It means get rid of characters in your story that aren’t doing anything. Just because you’ve fallen in love with a character doesn’t mean your readers will or that your readers will want said character in the story. If they aren’t pushing the action and your plot forward, cut them out.

4. Fix Place Holders

Often when I’m in a hurry to finish a first draft, I sometimes refer to characters as BLANK or put things in like FINISH THE DIALOGUE HERE.  I also will have a lot of “I say/said.” Say/Said is fine, but body language is a better way to write dialogue.  For example:

Using Say/Said: 

 “How could you!” I shout.

“I lied because I had to,” he says.

Using Body Language:

I shove him in the chest. “How could you!”

He glances down at the floor. “I lied because I had to,” he whispers.

It’s not perfect, but it gives you an idea.

5. Check Your Verbs

Make all of your verbs as strong as possible.  Use the Find feature in Word (if using Word) and search for things like I am, I was, He is, He was, and any being verbs. Being verbs are am, is, are, was, be, being, been, have, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could. Obviously, if you try to take out every single one you have a long job ahead of you.  I suggest you go with a 50/50 rule.  Some even suggest keeping 20%, but I think trying to change that much will change your writing style and make it a little choppy.

This post is far from complete, but it’s still a good list of general tips to keep in mind no matter the genre or length of your story.

Happy editing!