Some notes on editing, or why I hate sighing, frowning, and muttering, but I love Scrivener
Posted on November 21st, 2012
I don’t talk about writing here much, because while craft posts are interesting, other people are much better teachers. But I was working on my manuscript today, and thought I’d share one of my strategies for getting rid of redundancies.
I learned editing genre fiction that authors have a tendency to use the same words and phrases repeatedly. (Well, I already knew it, because I’m no different.) While writing a first draft, this is good because it helps you finish quickly. You don’t want to be bogged down in word choice; you just need to get the story out.
When I am editing or rewriting myself, I go through and do multiple passes for words and phrases I know I use too much. I rely on smiling, frowning, shrugging, and sighing entirely too much, generally as cues for the viewpoint character to know what non-viewpoint characters are thinking or feeling. It’s better than a POV error, sure, but it gets old quickly. Also, it’s boring.
As an example, in the last few days, I’ve gone through my WIP and edited out:
- Sighs (I’m in the midst of this one right now. I have a lot of sighing going on!)
In editing others’ work, I do a big find-and-replace that highlights all the overused words and phrases. I don’t replace the words and I certainly don’t rewrite them. I just highlight them all. Most, but not all, see all the yellow highlighting and it’s an epiphany for them. Most, but not all, are appreciative. Others tell me I don’t know their genre and where do I get off telling them anything about word choice? (As if good or bad writing varies by genre.)
Aside: Yeah. I edited a nightmare prima donna author. She writes the same novel, over and over. The names change, but it’s the same plot — I’m using the term loosely — and the same basic characters. Every. Single. Time. It is amazingly insipid. And no, she’s not doing well. Go figure.
But back to editing/rewriting.
Generally, the words can go entirely and don’t need to be rewritten. If I’ve done my job with dialogue, the emotion is implicit from what the characters have said. If the scene needs more, I go through and rewrite descriptions that are richer and add to the setting.
Some of this is taste. I hate heroic or viewpoint characters who sigh or sneer or otherwise snipe, unless they’re intentionally unlikeable sorts, because sighing, sneering, and sniping are rude. I hate rolling eyes and sighing by characters I am supposed to like, heroines included, because it makes them seem adolescent.
Lest you think I’m dumping on some poor author I edited once, I’m talking about me. Did I mention I am in the midst of my sighing pass? Oy, but I write a lot of sighing.
All I can say? Thank goodness for Scrivener, which has made all of these editing passes simple. I search for a word or phrase and every document that contains the word is listed on the left, and the word itself is highlighted in the text, making it easy to locate. Then I move onto the next document.
Another feature Scrivener has is the ability to look at word frequency throughout a MS. My most commonly used word, at 4,539 instances, is “the.” Maybe I need to run through and try a “the” pass next! Kidding…mostly.
(There are many reasons to use Scrivener, and these are just two minor reasons. It really does change the game for writing fiction.)