Well, it’s time to trim the manuscript.
I’m so long-winded, it’s horrible. Every time I do another draft, my manuscript gains a few thousand words. Yikes!
But…some words are easy to cut. And painless. They’re the same words that bog down sentences and paragraphs. The best part is once they’re gone, I don’t miss them a bit.
One of the last things I do with a manuscript is use the “Control F” function. Find and Replace, the writer’s best friend. Think of it like Search and Destroy. Once I feel my manuscript is “done”, I hunt for useless words that slipped in. Then I zap them and sit back, amazed at how quickly my word count drops.
If you’ve been writing for awhile, you probably have your own list of excess words. I’ve gathered some over the years, but since I needed to go through this process this week, I put all my lists together in one place. I figured I’d post it here for you to peruse (and for me to use in future manuscripts).
NOT ALL OF THE WORDS BELOW ARE ALWAYS USELESS!
- There are times when you need a “THAT” or a “JUST” to make a sentence work.
- Sometimes — and all you diehards don’t shoot me for saying this! — you need an adverb. Sorry, sorry, sorry! That’s just my opinion. Seriously, don’t shoot me. (See, I just used an adverb–and the word “JUST”. Ha!!!!)
- Depending on how your characters speak, you may need to leave some unnecessary words in to make the character sound authentic. Example: Teenagers throw tons of extra words into their speech (like, so, that). Same with southerners. Know your characters and be careful not to ruin their “Voice” when you strip your manuscript. In fact, if you cut those words from all places except where your character says them, it will strengthen their voice.
Because of those three reasons, I maybe cut half of the “useless” words, but it still adds up. THE POINT OF THE LIST BELOW IS TO GIVE YOU IDEAS OF WHERE YOU MIGHT HAVE EXCESS. It’s tedious skimming your manuscript for every word, reading every sentence to see if the word is needed, but it’s worth the effort. I just cut 2,500 words this week.
Here’s my list:
- close to
- feel, felt, feeling
- for a moment
- in spite of
- kind of
- saw, see, seen
- sort of
- try/tried to
- (If you have words to add, comment below, and I’ll plug them in. )
After three days of this tedious SEARCH and DESTROY method, I cut 2,400 words from my manuscript. Now it feels tight and concise. It reads faster and stronger, too, so it’s worth it!
Good luck with your manuscripts!
What words do you overuse? Any I forgot? Comment here.
Side note: Readers have no idea what authors go through for them. :)
Other writing tips:
- Writing Tip #1: Ending Chapters at the Height of Scene, Not Resolution
- Writing Tip #2: Using Beats to Strengthen Characters and Settings
- Writing Tip #3: Know Your Writing Priorities
- Writing Tip #4: Beta Readers
- Writing Tip #5: Trim the Fat, Cutting the Easy Stuff