I’m in the process of rewriting a book I’ve always loved, but it really just isn’t ready for public consumption. It’s hard. I LOVE this story, but finding the gold in the pile of crud is really a daunting task. Mostly because I love writing narrative. Long, flowing descriptions of people and places. Paragraphs of personal introspection. But guess what? Readers don’t want to wade through all of that, regardless of imagery. They want action. Things to happen. This means stories need to clip along. No meandering chapters. Every word carefully chosen. Nothing wasted.
So how do you find those words and phrases that can be cut without changing your story?
* Search your manuscripts for words ending in “ly”.
It’s unnecessary to say:
– She whispered quietly.
– He banged the table loudly.
“Whisper” is inherently quiet. A “bang” is loud. Those adverbs don’t help you draw the picture for you readers. You’ve already done that.
* Remove unnecessary descriptive words.
– The baby kitten purred.
– The giant tank rolled through the streets.
Kittens are babies and have you ever seen a small tank? There is no reason to include these words. The nouns themselves already give the description.
* Trust that your description explains without stating it again.
Stomping around the room, she couldn’t meet his gaze. “Because I don’t want to!” she yelled. Damn she was angry.
The last sentence isn’t needed. By using strong verbs like “stomp” and “yelled” you’ve already painted the picture of her anger. You don’t need to restate it.
Luke studied her face. Her unfocused eyes were heavy lidded, the long lashes brushing her flushed cheeks. Little puffs of breath feathered through her full lips. Sarah was so turned on.
Again, the reader knows she’s turned on. The author has done a wonderful job painting that picture. Don’t waste words stating the obvious.
* Make your verbs work for you. This also goes to writing action vs. passive.
Incorrect: The ball was bouncing across the driveway.
Correct: The ball bounced across the driveway.
It’s amazing the number of words you can cut from your manuscript by searching for “was”, “were”, and “been” and choosing a stronger verb to get your point across.
These are just a few of the easy steps to streamline your manuscript. Don’t let the word count limitations limit your story.