Writing Wednesday: Cleaning Out Word Count

One thing that happened in the previous layer of edit is that my word count ballooned up by about 6K. So as I’m doing my line edits, I’m also looking for extraneous language I can clean up. What do I mean?

Here are some of my worst sins:
Duilio doubted that Miss Carvalho could see that Silva’s hand fiddled with the lock.

Yep, neither of those thats are necessary to the sentence. Redone it comes out like this: Duilio doubted Miss Carvalho could see Silva’s hand fiddling with the lock.

I -always- have to check for superfluous thats. In smaller pieces I can use the Find function to locate each that and consider whether I can delete it. With larger manuscripts, I have to print it out and look at it that way.

However, if the witch involved wants to go back and fix this spell, then they will prefer strongly to do so with her.

First, this is dialog, which explains it being a bit convoluted. Despite that, the then there is quite unnecessary.

Double verbs
This seemed to confirm…
He started to turn…
She began to tug loose the strings of her handbag…

OK, there is a big difference between ‘seem to confirm’ and ‘confirmed’. But the difference between ‘began to tug loose’ and ‘tugged loose’ is pretty minimal….so I keep an eye out for verbs like began, started, tried, managed, and seemed and decide whether any of those verb phrases can be cleaned up..

Squirrely Words
My greatest sin. I also speak this way in real life, inserting qualifiers into just about every sentence. (See the ‘just about every’? Yep, that’s my squirrelliness coming out.)

I go through the manuscript, eliminating these wherever I can: very, almost, nearly, slightly, just, surely, certainly, likely, probably, possibly, at times, sometimes, somewhat, somehow, etc.

Yes, I leave many in. That’s the way I write. But readers have no clue how many I cut out during the editing process.

I have a lot of other clean up procedures, but those are the ones I use most often.

Alwyn has been outside for almost two hours now, barking up the oak tree because he saw a crow in the upper branches. He’s never going to catch the thing, but he’s optomistic about his chances.

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