If you follow me on Instagram (@charityrau), you know I have been working through revisions on my novel. And in March, I shared the different stages of editing (check that post out here). So, for today’s post I decided I’d share some specific tips for editing your novel. These are some things that have really helped me strengthen my writing, and I hope they’ll help you as well. 🙂
1. Watch out for filter words. Filter words are words like heard, looked, and felt. When you use these words, you filter your characters’ experiences through your words rather than letting the reader share the experience with the character. This goes along with the whole “show, don’t tell” principle.
Filter word sentences: “I pulled out the bag and looked through it. It had everything I needed.”
Better sentences: “I pulled out the bag and reached inside. A little vial of syrup, dried roots, and plenty of rags. It had everything I needed.”
2. Limit passive sentence use. Passive sentences can be used in some instances, but in most cases an active sentence is better. Active sentences help pull the reader into the action.
Passive sentence: “The quiet flip of her covers told me she was angry.”
Better active sentences: “She flipped her covers over her head and didn’t say a word. Great, she was angry at me.”
Another example (with a passive/active verb):
Passive sentence: “The team was cheered on by the girls.”
Active sentence: “The girls cheered on the team.”
3. Remove unnecessary adverbs. Adverbs are tricky. Sometimes they can help tell your reader something, but often they aren’t needed. In fact, many times all you need is a stronger verb.
With adverb: “She walked unsteadily down the stairs.”
With a stronger verb: “She stumbled down the stairs.”
With adverb – “He bowed low and removed his hat, twisting it nervously in his hands.”
Without adverb – “He bowed low and removed his hat, twisting it in his hands.”
It still makes sense without the adverb, and you can infer from the twisting action that he is nervous.
4. Cut out obvious statements. Sometimes an action already tells the reader your character’s emotion or attitude, so there is no need to state that emotion or attitude.
Obvious statement: “I kicked at a rock in the driveway, angry at the spell and that idiotic woman who cast it.”
If she’s kicking a rock, we can figure out she’s angry.
Better sentences: “I kicked at a rock in the driveway. Just who did that woman think she was, casting a spell on us just to get herself out of a jam?”
5. Remove all the unnecessary thats. ‘That’ is another tricky word. We add it to sentences all the time, but it’s rarely ever needed.
With that – “At least she was pleased that Stephan had invited me to the Spring Ball.”
Without that – “At least she was pleased Stephan had invited me to the Spring Ball.”
As you can see removing the ‘that’ doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.
These are just a few things that can help strengthen your writing. Both the “that” and the “-ly” adverbs can be fixed with a Find search through your document. The others will take a bit more work to find and correct, but it is worth it in the end!
What about you? What tips do you have for editing novels? Let me know in the comments!
This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.