Back to “that”

Most publishers have “style sheets” which are guidelines for formatting a manuscript for submission.  They also might have editing guidelines, which they will provide once a manuscript is being prepped for editing.  Copy editing can be a nightmare, by the way.  Every word and sentence is picked over and pulled apart by both the editor and the copy editor and then by the author.  Arguments ensue, sleepless nights follow and often the easiest solution is to hit the delete key.

Suggested items to watch for are “garbage words” which are: 

So

That

Then

And then

Just

Really

If you want an incredibly tedious job, try doing a search on each of those in a 400-page manuscript.  Read each sentence in which those words appear and decided the following:

Can you delete the word without changing the meaning of the sentence?

Can you delete the word without revising the sentence?

Does the word need to stay in the sentence?  (Sometimes it does.)

Can you revise the sentence so that it says the same thing without using that particular word?

Example:  Can you revise the sentence so it says the same thing without using the word?

Can you delete the entire sentence without losing anything?  (You’d be surprised how often this is the case.)

What is also surprising is how revising based on these words makes a manuscript stronger and your writing better.  These words quite often actually detract from the impact of a sentence.  Deleting them makes more of a statement than your original sentence.

Remember the old adage “ninety-nine percent of writing is rewriting.”  You won’t believe this is true until you sell something to a publisher or until you’ve been writing for a long time and begin to figure out what you’re doing wrong.

Rewriting is a tedious process, especially when you’re doing searches for particular words like this.  I have to take breaks from the mind-numbing boredom and play a game or two of Spider Solitaire.  But when self-discipline kicks in I go back to “that.”

 www.barbmeyers.com

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