Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing Wednesday: A neat editing trick

Reading my own writing objectively is impossible for me. I get too caught up in my own stories and know what I meant to say instead of what I said to seriously break my writing down and look at it objectively.

I came across a tip, at IO9, that really helps. Use the find feature on your word processor.

The author suggested 4 things to look for:

1) Adverbs (look to make sure they are not overused) do this by searching for “ly”.
My adverb use is decent about one in every three paragraphs. But it caught the fact that all my characters use the word “Really” a lot. I’ve been using this to go back through and change this to make the characters talk different from each other.

2) “It” It is a very flexible pronoun and because of that it must be used carefully.
This is a problem of mine, although I mostly manage to keep it consistent within a sentence, I seriously overuse the word and using the find feature helps me correct this.

3) “There was” This is a pretty weak verb that some people easily put in place of the “real” action verb.
Luckily this isn’t a problem of mine, searching the first 5 chapters of my book I used it once. There was no reason for me to run that search (lol).

4) “Was Being” A common mixed tense phrase.
This is another common mistake that I don’t seem to make but I know a lot of writers do.

The really nice thing about using the find feature is not only does it catch what you are looking for but also it brings up random paragraphs that you can read and see if they make sense on their own. If they don’t they might need to fixed.

I’m really liking the results I’m getting using this technique and I’ve been trying more searches like character names to see if they are overused, pronoun searches to see if they are consistent within paragraphs and so on.

If anyone can think of other things to search for let me know. I’m amazed at how this simple thing has made my revisions so much easier and better.


Honkmofo said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'll put it to use!

Stephanie Barr said...

I saw this and may give this a try.

And it's adverbs that use "ly" not usually adjectives. Truly.

Project Savior said...

Your right, I didn't notice because I use them sparingly.