I’m an “edit as you go” kind of writer. And an “edit later” writer. And a “send out manuscript but keep editing anyway” kind of writer. I can’t stop. It’s like the way some people are when they open a bag of chips. They start with a few, but before they know it, they realize they’ve eaten half the bag and figure they might as well finish it. Except in my case, the bag keeps refilling. Just when I think I’ve perfected every single thing I can, I see a post like this one and realize I have more to do.
One of the most recent “ah-has” in my editing was identifying my overused words. Initally, these words were “just” and “that”. Then a crit partner pointed out that (oops) I used “was” too much so I went through and eliminated 1/3 of those uses as well.
Tip: If you want to know how often you use a word, run a Find & Replace in Word where both the find and replace are the same word. This will give you a count of the number of times you’ve used it.
Back to me, because seriously, isn’t blogging all about me???
After the “was” debacle, I thought I was done. Then I read an article about overusing “smirked” and this made me search for similar words such as smiled, frowned, glared, nodded… Well, holy crap! It was like the characters in my novel just stood around making facial gestures all day. I fixed this by first eliminating the ones that weren’t necessary. Then I made a list of my characters and gave them more interesting quirks. For example, one of my characters didn’t smile–she “flashed her dentures”. Another didn’t frown, she “crinkled her nose”.
After the frowning-smiling-sighing incident, I figured I was REALLY done. That’s when I discovered another reviewer who told me I had too many adverbs (a no-no in writing). I was surprised until I searched for “ly” words and discovered I had 100’s! It was as if every single verb was done slowly, carefully or gently. I think I even found one that said, “She quietly tiptoed up the stairs.” I mean, can you tiptoe ANY other way? No, I think not.
So now, I REALLY REALLY am done. Well, as long as I never look at the Internet again. So how about you? Can you walk away from your manuscript and call it done or do you edit it into the ground?