7 words that self-editing indie authors should search for. I did and was surprised!

I took to heart some editing advice from John Adamus, a professional book editor who wrote a post recently for that wicked(ly funny) Chuck Wendig’s blog. Among other things Adamus noted six words that should be checked as an author is editing her/his manuscript.  The word “just”, which is on his list, leaped out at me.  While I was writing my new novel, a romance/cozy mystery with a nifty rough collie character, I noticed that I was using the word “just” a lot and had decided, even before reading this post, that I would use the ‘Find’ tab in Word to review everywhere I had used it in the MS and see if “just” was appropriate or should be changed.

New Vampire Online cover

Cate the Vampire has a new website and problems keep popping up everywhere!

I had done something similar when I was editing my last vampire novel, New Vampire Online, but the words I searched for in that MS were “and then”. Authors often use “and then” to indicate that time has passed. It was embarassing how often “and then” showed up in that MS.  I changed those words and discovered that the writing was better in the new version. It was a good learning experience.

This morning, with the first draft of the new novel complete and my re-writing underway, I decided to check the MS for all six of the words/phrases that Adamus suggested, plus “and then.”  The words on his lists were: “really”, “just”, “very”, “kind of”, “a little”, and “sort of”.  They are all qualifiers that do not necessarily add much to a statement and may, in fact, weaken the power of the prose.

“Really” was the first word I checked using the Find tab.  It turned up over 80 times in the 45,000 word manuscript.  I cut out or revised more than half of them.

“Just” was the second word and it showed up fewer than 60 times. Quite often it is in the characters’ dialogue. I cut more than a third of them. Many of the remaining ones indicate time recently passed.

“Very” was the third word I checked and it appeared in the MS 118 times!  Yikes!  Well, it turned out that the Find function had also found “every”, “everything”, “everyone”, and “silvery”  I had  not used “very” all that often. Again, I checked each one and revised where needed.

The next three on Adamus’ list were phrases I rarely use.  Checking the MS I found them a few times and only five of them did I change.  I use “A little”, for example, to describe things that were small or smaller–rather than indicating something was lesser or approximate.

As for “and then”…well, I was careful about using it as I was writing. It generally appears when one character is telling another character about an event that happened previously.

NOTE:  Author Diana Urban recently wrote a post about the 43 words every writer should delete.  I do not agree with all of her suggestions and caution you not to do ‘replace all’.  You could end up with a disaster! For example, if I deleted all ‘very’ using the ‘replace all’ function my MS would have strange words like ‘Sil’ instead of silvery. It can be time consuming but go through words to delete, one by one.

I’ve decided to entitle the new novel “Finding Mr. Yes.”  I’m also thinking about putting Pretty Girl, the long-haired, rough collie on the cover.  But a romance/mystery with a collie on the cover instead of some bare-chested dude? Yeah.  I might do that.

I finally set up an Annie Carroll Author page of Facebook to let readers know more about my fiction works.  You can find this page here.

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