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?


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!

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.