Posted in Thoughts

Learning to Self-edit

I posted this previously on the Pamlico Writers’ website under Word Detective. Finding the right word isn’t always the problem. Sometimes spelling or using it correctly, is the problem. The more I write and the more I participate in writing challenges, the better my writing becomes.

Words not use or over use. Now I’m taking this from my own manuscript. These are words and phrases and things I did too much of. I’ll start with a quote from the illustrious Mark Twain via Jon Winokur @AdviceToWriters, “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”, your editor will delete it and the writing will be as is should be.”
My first and I kind of caught this myself but my critique partners said, no, it’s no longer cute if everyone is doing it. Rolled his/her eyes, it was bad enough I even had my character comment that her eyes would stick if she kept doing it and then he rolled his eyes. Too much of a good thing.
The next was shaking his/her head, he/she shook their head, a whole lot of shaking going on. I searched for other ways to show it either with dialogue or another action. Example 1: She shook her head, smiling. “Yes, that’s what I want.” Okay, that’s not too bad unless you have a lot of shaking. After a while all the characters resemble bobble-head dolls. Example 2: She nodded, smiling. “Yes, that’s what I want.” Again, not awful but I have even more nods than I do shakes and, yep, that bobble-head thing is still happening. Let’s change it completely. Example 3: “Yes.” Tears filled her eyes as she clapped her hands together bringing them to her lips, she said, “That’s what I want.” No more bobble-head, the emotion is stronger and more visual.
The list continues:
Shrug down saw/see/seen wait inside feel/felt
Glare blinked do/done met glance frown
Sigh check know/knew face grip gaze
Suck like think/thought shift act up
Turn return took/take stare still meet
Look blush sure meet could believe
Change try/tried would/should can will that
Smile started it/it’s/its

I am sure these are only a few of my faux pas in writing. In your rough draft, you will make these mistakes unless you are a disciplined writer. I am not, I just put my fingers to the key board and write. I make up my own contractions even. But as I’m reading over my work afterwards, I look for those mistakes. I also ask my friends and family to read for me and I do a search and destroy. With my Word document, I can go into editing and find words. It will tell me how many times certain words show up. Like “that” 85 times!! That should rarely be included in your manuscript, I know that but because it’s an easy word to use, I used it a lot.
I used “do” 42 times and “like” 51. Some weren’t as bad but “very” 22 times, and as Mark Twain said, shouldn’t be used in writing at all. We each have our fall back words, place holders if you will. Do the editing, have others read and thank goodness for computers that can give us the information we very much need.
Happy hunting, I mean writing.


I write suspense with a hot romance and a southern accent. I like strong characters with attitude and charm. Heroines who can rescue themselves and heroes who aren't afraid to love them.