You know how at the beginning of the week I told you I was cleaning out my basement? I was sitting down there, going through box after box and I was thinking to myself, “Why did I save all this stuff?” (Okay, I was really thinking why did my husband save all this stuff. All the stuff *I* save is important and wonderful.)
But I got to thinking how sometimes that’s how it is with our writing. At one point, we think we need all those adjectives and “just” and “very” and “that,” but then, after we’ve walked away for a bit (see last week’s writing tip) we come back and go through things and realize we don’t need it and it's just cluttering up our work and keeping us from being our best. Now is the time to go back and purge all those things from our precious manuscript.
Sometimes purging can be difficult because we get into a mindset that we really NEED those words, or that's how I write and I can't change, or that's my favorite word, I don't want to delete it! All of those excuses are keeping your manuscript from being its best. You've got to be ruthless and cut, cut, cut. It might hurt a bit, but your writing will be stronger for it. (My favorite word is "just." I always have to do a search for it in my manuscript, and I'm always SHOCKED by how many I use.)
So today I’d like to give you a few hints for words that can be purged from your manuscript, giving it that fresh, clean feeling that every agent and publishing house is looking for.
Clutter Words to Find and Eliminate
It's not an all-inclusive list, but here's where I would start.
Clean out those clutter words! Delete words like: just, that, seem, only, very, finally, really, still, and suddenly. They're generally weak and not something you want in your manuscript.
Take out pretty much any adverb (words ending in “ly”). They’re just lazy writing words and you want your writing to have some punch! So, instead of saying, “I’d love to,” she said brightly. You could give it more punch with, The brilliant smile said it all. “I’d love to,” she said. Or something like that. You get the picture. You can show your story, be in the moment, and give your character depth when you don’t use adverbs.
Take out dialogue tags. If there’s only two people talking, you probably don’t need the “he said/she said,” tags. Be careful, though, you don’t want to take out so many of them, your readers get confused as to who is talking. Make sure you have your scene anchors in place.
And the last one to look out for, “there was.” If you say, “There was no way this was going to end well.” It’s passive sounding and lacks being in the moment. You could cut out the “there was,” with “This was not going to end well,” and even that gives it a little more punch.
Whew. It's quite a list, but don't feel overwhelmed. Take it a little at a time, and I promise you, as you get rid of the clutter, your writing will feel more crisp and you'll feel so much better.
So, start taking a look at your word clutter and purge, purge, purge. You can do it!