Troublesome Edits

I spent the vast majority of my three-day weekend editing, re-writing, and polishing a lovely steampunk novella manuscript. During these hours of reading and re-reading my work, I began to notice a trend with words and phrases I used. So I thought I would share some of those here, because I imagine some of my word problems might be yours too.

THAT

Oh, evil little that, so small, so innocent. But then you turn your back and it’s EVERYWHERE! Like tiny THAT spiders.

And you will never sleep again.

 Now I’m not saying that is always evil. There are reasons to use that, mainly to specify that your character is picking up THAT book, not the other one. But you see the other little that up there? THAT your character… Yeah, you don’t have to have that, that. Be extra careful that you need to use that. (Like spiders I tell you, you type it once…)

STARTED TO

Nine times out of ten your character didn’t start to do something, they did it. Now, if he or she started to back out of the drive, but then stopped, that’s one thing. However if little Sue Main Character starts to walk across the engine room and picks up something on a table, the start to is not needed. Keep the focus on the action, and speaking of action…

WAS *INSERT VERBING HERE*

This is one that I really struggle with. For some reason I love putting Sue Main Character was fighting with someone, instead of ‘She fought with someone’. Yes, there is a minute difference, however many times you can eliminate the was without altering the meaning of the sentence overall. Removing was helps keep the action flowing and active.

So, what are some things you have to watch yourself for when you edit your own work?

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10 Comments »

  1. R.S. Hunter Said:

    I’m in the middle of editing/polishing/revising my steapunk novel. I’m noticing almost the exact same things! That is a huge one for me. Started to hasn’t been as bad, but I’ve found I tend to put excessive dialogue tags when sometimes I don’t need any at all. Luckily these excessive dialogue tags are only said’s and not weird thesaurus-like ones.

    • Oooh, the dialogue tags! I’ve noticed that one as well. I have a bad habit of including non-dialogue tags. As in:
      “I’m leaving,” he was already at the door.

      ‘he was already at the door.’ is not a dialogue tag at all and should be a seperate sentence.

      “I’m leaving.” He was already at the door.

      Tiny detail, but I caught a lot of those in my draft.

  2. Instantly, suddenly, really. Those are my bane. Oh, and characters waking with a start or gasping as they awake.

    And I probably abuse was and started to as well. Good pointers

    • Oh the dreaded -lys you’ve really got to watch for those or else your whole story will turn into a ‘suddenly, really instantly weird story.’

  3. randallweiss Said:

    I have a that spider problem, too.

  4. Laura Said:

    “Insert verbing here.” I like it. I mean, I don’t like it, but you know what I mean…

    My personal editing tic is overusing character tics. For instance, I have a pair of characters who can do the thing where they only raise one eyebrow. And it’s a cool skill but surely they don’t need to do it all the time/as often as I have them do it…. :/

    • Ah, the poor character. By the end of the story their poor eyebrow is trapped on their forehead.
      I had a character who flipped her hair ALL THE TIME. By the end of the story one of the beta readers asked me how her neck hadn’t broken from all the flipping. Ouch.

      • Laura Said:

        Ouch indeed. But sometimes you need to hear the sarcastic editors. They’re the most helpful because they tell you what they’re REALLY thinking…

  5. […] while ago I read a post on Andi Judy’s blog regarding troublesome words and phrases that kept turning up in her writing. Obviously, examples of […]


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