I’m still working through the rewrite on my forth novel and finding self-editing tips to share.

1. Get rid of the word that. In my last post, I wrote a sentence like this: If a guy in a driveway points at tires, readers will assume that you mean on the car. I went back and took out that. The sentence reads better without it. Sometimes the word will be needed for clarity but not often.

2. Get rid of  the word it. When rewriting, I replace this word at least half the time with the name of the thing it represents. Clarity and detail are usually a better idea.

3. Replace verbs that end in ing. Of course, they’re necessary sometimes, but ing verbs are often weak. Use present or past tense verbs as much as possible. Jackson ran for the door is stronger than Jackson was running for the door.

4. Resist starting sentences with But, And, or Then. It’s a sign of weak writing. We’ll all use them when we’re in writing mode, and the point is to crank out a scene and get words on the page without worrying about finesse. In rewrite mode, I use the search function to locate these words when they’re capped and eliminate them as sentence starters as much as possible. But I make exceptions 🙂

5. Use the search function to find errors. When I notice I’ve misspelled a character’s name, I assume I’ve done it more than once, so I search for the misspelled version. If I see  I’ve treated a phrase in different ways, say hyphenated in one use and open in another, I search for the phrase both ways and standardize my usage.

  1. More great suggestions. I think I’ve used all of them except looking for “it”.

    One of the most time-consuming things I do with editing is reading it all out loud. That’s especially good for catching typos. It can also catch awkward phrases.

  2. I’m reading my forth Jackson novel aloud now. Time consuming but worth it. I catch missing words and repetitions.

  3. “That” is such a pesky word! I use the search function to find them all as well as other words I tend to use too much. I still groan when I find I used one word three or four times on the same page – much less the same paragraph. How did writers find all these little things before computer days?

  4. I’ve been following your self-editing tips. I destroyed most thats, now I’m working on theres.

    Yes, I like your books, your blog, and you. 😉

  5. I tell my crit partners this stuff all the time. Wonderful post!

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