Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quick editing tips to tighten your fiction

That -- About 80% of the times that you use this word, you can delete it, and the sentence will still mean the same thing.

Up and down -- Ditto. Just cut them unless the sentence needs them.

Dialogue attributions, e.g., he said and she said -- If two people are talking, you only need 1 tag about every 5 lines of dialogue, or less. Try to make the words used by each character distinctive.

Do not cut one word of emotion or characterization unless it is redundant.

She saw/heard/thought/surmised/considered/theorized -- Remove this part and just let the observation stand on its own, unless you have not recently centered the narrative in the character. If you've been describing other stuff for a while, use this to re-center the narrative within the character. If you've been inside the character a lot, remove this to open up the narrative to the setting and world.

  • She thought that [T]he contradiction was obvious: if they had all planned to be gone and to set off the sarin remotely, why did they have a sealed safe room inside? (Remove the "she thought" and the "that.") 
  • Angel heard the rain on the tin roof above her, the roar of the tanks' big diesel engines, and her own heartbeat. (Don't remove. Centers the narrative in the character.)  

Good luck and happy writing,
TK Kenyon

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