Friday, July 27, 2012

The Best Selling Author's Diet

It’s salad days, folks, because it's time to put your manuscript on a diet. Cinch your belt as tight as you can and let’s self-edit.

What’s self-edit? It means you eliminate all the fat, all the extra words that don’t move the story forward, and all the passive words bogging down your scenes.

REDUNDANCIES are unnecessary words over describing an action.

The following are examples and if you look hard you’re bound to find several in your work.

• David pulled out the bench and sat down in the chair.
The word ‘down’ is unnecessary because that’s the only way David can sit.

• David jumped up. David stood up.
‘Up’ is unnecessary because, again, that’s the only way he can go if he’s jumping or standing.

• Melissa shrugged her shoulders.
I love this one because it eliminates two words, ‘her shoulders’. What else could Melissa shrug?

• Melissa loved to see David’s well-toned chest and how it tapered down to his narrow waist.
‘Well’ and ‘down’ go. The sentence should read;
Melissa loved to see David’s toned chest and how it tapered to his narrow waist.
The corrected version is cleaner and right to the point.

A few other examples are;

• Blue in color
• Climbed up the stairs
• Eased slowly
• Nodded his head
• Stomped heavily
• Stood to his full height
• Terribly bad

PASSIVE WORDS are used in our speech but should never be used in writing. You’re telling a story and must keep the action moving. These words are showing not telling.

• Is
• Might
• Seemed
• Started to
• Was
• Were

Readers want action therefore you must construct your sentences with powerful verbs.

The same reasoning applies to adverbs and adjectives. The following is but a small selection and offer zero to paint a picture.

• A little
• Almost
• Even
• Just
• Perhaps
• So
• Some
• Very
• When

Most, if not all, adverbs and adjectives weaken your writing and need to be eliminated from your story.

PREPOSITIONS are not your best friend. Go through your work and highlight every preposition, including prepositional phrases. If you have an abundance you must clear them out to create stronger sentences.

THAT is a word we seldom need in a sentence. Its filler and a word you need to eliminate from your writing and your vocabulary.

The Best Tip of the Day;

Do a word search to discover how many times you’ve used a specific word. Reread your sentence and replace the overused word with a stronger verb or noun.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back Monday with Libby Mercer and tips for an unusual Paris vacation. Until then...

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor


  1. Excellent tips, Sloane! I still find all of these in my drafts. I love it when I use the same word a dozen times within four pages. LOL. Thank fully, my awesome crit partners find those for me. :)

    1. Glad you like them, Melissa. You've got GREAT crit partners! Congrats on finding authors who care enough about you and your career to be honest. I must say, mine are wonderful, too. I can't get away with a damned thing. lol

  2. Honestly, I swear you were a teacher in your past life, you're that good! Love the tips, love the teacher! Tweeteda and shared! Cheers!

    1. I'm not so sure if I was a teacher, but I do believe I've lived before.:) Thanks for the tweet and share!

  3. This is a great post, Sloane. I thought I wrote cleanly until I got my edits back and realized I'd made many of these mistakes. I'm going to try to keep them in mind, but thank God for editors!

    1. AMEN, MARGARET!! Glad you liked the post.

  4. Great post and excellent tips. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome, Janna, and glad you liked the post.

  5. I'm in the middle of edits right now. Very timely and sage advice here. Thanks.

    1. You're very welcome, Ann, I'm happy to help.:)

  6. As an editor...YES! :) That excellent advice has me nodding my head and leaping up out of my chair to stand on my feet and clap my hands!
    I shared it!