Keeping the good bits – on editing

Guiding advice for editing my work is to ‘skip the boring bits’. One thing I ask my beta readers (people who give me feedback on the early versions of my manuscript) is what bits were boring? Those are the parts I cut out.

Eventually, I’m only left with the good bits – the bits that drive the story forward, that explore deeper into a character, or the bits that are just a little bit funny!

The following ideas were originally posted on my writing process blog in July, 2013, but I think they have a new home here:

  • Read your work out loud. This is the absolute best advice I can give anyone for their writing. When you read your work out loud, you notice easily which bits don’t quite make sense and which bits ‘flow’ the best. Writing and reading are intrinsically linked.
  • Build suspense. I am specifically referring to the hanging scene here, especially as it really needs to hook the reader in, but perhaps in other areas as well. Keep the reader guessing – what are they going to do? What’s going to happen? We love a book that keeps us wanting to know more.
  • Be consistent with your tense. Past tense is the easiest to write in, but whatever you choose, stick to it.
  • Don’t underestimate your audience. If you’ve described someone as being excited, you don’t also have to say that they’re excited – we have already made the connection, which links to…
  • …show don’t tell. Some bits are not hugely significant, so you can just state it (otherwise your writing will become far too wordy to enjoy), but other parts can be described with more ‘oomph’ – think about describing sight, sound, touch, smell and FEELINGS.
  • Look at places you have repeated words in close vicinity of each other. Reading the same term too many times gets confusing for the reader. Sometimes you can say ‘it’ instead, other times think of a different way of saying the same thing.

What would you add?

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