Monday, March 28, 2011

I dare you to put your manuscript to this test

One of the best editing tools I've found in Microsoft word has to be the "find" button. I can't imagine revising without this tool. In my most recent revisions of Letters Never Sent, the tool has become even more handy than I'd ever thought before.

I was informed my WIP had an over-abundance of adjectives and adverbs and I put the "find" button to use to get this issue dealt with. The simplest search I could think of was an "-ly" search. No, not all adjectives end in -ly, but many of them do. When the search stopped I nearly fainted: 2550 "ly's" in my manuscript.

Then I remembered my main character's name is Lily, so her name took a huge chunk off that number from the get-go. Then there are other words like "only" or "finally" that often can't be replaced. Still, that left a plethora of -ly words for me to wade through. Well, I did it. And guess what? It took about two days, but I think it strengthened my manuscript. I improved my verbs and slashed tons of unnecessary adjectives (550 to be exact).

Some other recent word searches I've done are "made their way" or "make their way." I realized my characters never just walked anywhere. Oh no. They "made their way" everywhere they went. Talk about annoying! I did a search for "babe" and "baby" because my terms of endearment were a bit too frequent. I did a search for "!" because yes, my characters were yelling a little too often.

Editing with the find button can be time consuming. But I think the effort is fantastic for improving your writing.


What searches have helped improve your manuscript? Or what words do you know you use WAY TOO MUCH?

7 comments:

Deborah A. said...

Someone once told me to do a search like that for terms like "they are" and "can not". When the words are compounded, it makes reading a lot smoother and less choppy. I've never thought to do a search for adjectives though. I'm afraid:)

I use a description too much. To describe fear, I say it's a cold stone dropped in my stomach. Apparently that's only a good phrase to use once in a manuscript.

Jolene Perry said...

I just wrote a post on this to be done later on this month

"but" - because I always forget to put commas there
"that" - because most of the time it can be taken out
"smile" - because EVERYONE is ALWAYS smiling!
"I"

And I'm sure I could continue...

Dan said...

I look for how many times I used the word "I" and then eliminate some of them. It's especially important if you're writing in first person.

Maggie, I didn't even recognize you with your new picture! Your hair looks great. You could be in the witness protection program.
=)

Deborah A. said...

I don't have an amazon author page yet. I didn't think I could set one up until after my book was already on there. I did get a response from the publisher yesterday. They said it takes 5 - 7 business days for amazon to build the profile for my book after I approve it for publication. I wrote an email and complained that I should have been told beforehand so I could plan accordingly. They replied and said they'd work on making that information more accessible to authors. So hopefully this doesn't happen to another author.

Maggie said...

Yeah, that's a pain. It seems like our time lines don't always go according to plan.

Hopefully your publisher gets it all lined up.

Amazon had Growing Up Gracie on pre-order probably four weeks before it was released.

Tana Adams said...

Oh *raises hand* I just did this! It was a HUGE help. Love the find button almost as much as delete. ;)

Melanie Jacobson said...

Yeah, the -ly search came in handy for me last week, too. I always have to look for "just" "felt" and "started to" for different reasons, and every one I take out makes the whole thing better. It's annoying and tedious, but I think how much worse I would feel if it went permanently to print and then I soldier on, slicing and dicing.