Again, today I will share a few things I took away from the Serious Writer Boot Camp I attended last month. Imagine you’ve finished your draft of your story and now you need to go back over it, polishing it to a fine shine. Editors will always find something that needs to change, it’s what publishers pay them for. 😊 But there are things that can get your manuscripts rejected out of hand. We all know to catch all typos and grammar errors. No matter how good the story, no editor will consider it worth their time to fix those. There are several things you can do beyond running the spell/grammar check on your word document. Read it out loud. I like to use a read-aloud app. Word has it in the review tab. A monotone voice reads to you and it’s amazing the errors you can hear. Find a friend or family member to proofread for grammar and spelling. Fresh eyes find what you miss. After that is done, it is still not ready to send to a publisher.
Try the Look Method
Use the zoom button in Word and zoom out to view a whole chapter at once. ( Each version of Word has it in a different place. I won’t give instructions here.) Scroll through your chapter pages and look at the first word in each paragraph, does the same word appear often? Change some of those opening lines. Then do the same with each paragraph. How many times does a sentence begin with the same word? Fix those sentences. When you do, you’ll be surprised how much stronger the paragraph becomes.
Boot “as” out of your manuscript
Eliminate “as” in your manuscript. Most of the time what you are describing is better said as two sentences.
Example: Clara worked on her sewing as the sunset, making it hard to see her stretches.
Instead: The sunset over the horizon. Clara strained to see the sewing in her hand in the fading light.
My example could still be improved upon. I hope you get the idea. It was recommended to remove 95% of them from your book. That’s a lot of “as”.
Limit the use of was, and its tenses. In dialog it’s fine.
“I was with her.”
But find more creative ways to describe something without using was. Sometimes was is fine. But too many screams amateur writing. Also eliminate it, that, there, they especially preceding was.
It was a terrible day.
That was unexpected.
They were all together.
Can you improve on these sentences?
Just do away with overused words
Is there a word you use a lot? Just is my bugaboo. So, I use the find tab and it highlights just in my manuscript. Often a sentence is fine without it.
I just want to say.
I want to say.
Just leave me alone.
Leave me alone.
Just who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?
I know these are dull sentences, but I think you get my drift.
You may have lots of grinning, teasing, chuckling going on that becomes distracting to the reader. My suggestion is to grab a thesaurus or find one online to change up your wording.
Hope you found these helpful. Rather than overwhelm you, I’ll share a few more tips in my next post.
Share some of your best practice in polishing manuscripts in the comments.