# of pages written: 8.5
# of literary mags submitted to: 2
I have a flash fiction piece coming out in Compose Journal this spring, and recently the fiction editor asked me to look at a “few little things” that needed reworking in my story. She had uploaded my story onto google docs, and all three of the Compose editors had made comments. A lot of comments. I went through and responded to them, and they commented back. We haggled a bit when I didn’t want to switch the order of two sentences or get rid of a word I thought was necessary.
But I did end up deleting words, reworking a few sentences, and adding a new description to the ending. Through it all, they encouraged and supported me. This, I thought, my heart swelling, must be what it feels like to have a really great editor helping with your novel. Oh, that I might have that one day!
I was amazed that the editors, who are not getting paid, would put so much time and energy into my dinky, three-page story. I was amazed at how picky they were about my sentence structure and word choices. I was amazed and glad. Those detail-oriented editors had me change 1% of my piece, but it made the story 100% better. That’s the power of editing.
Unfortunately, the editors of Compose aren’t always around to put their eagle eyes to my sentences, so I have to learn to edit for myself. Here are some editing tips I constantly remind myself about. Maybe these reminders will be helpful for you, too?
WORDS TO GET RID OF IN YOUR WRITING
1. just – I just can’t get enough of this word and just can’t seem to stop using it in my writing. Usually I just have to go through and cut out all the justs. Usually “just” just isn’t needed.
2. that – Example: She dropped the necklace down the front of her shirt so that the charm rested between her breasts. Do we really need “that”? Take it out and see how it sounds.
3. said – I’m all for making it clear who says what. But if it’s already clear, cut the “said.” This is especially easy to do when there’s already an action associated with the speaker. For example, change this: “You’re insane,” Diane said, backing away. to “You’re insane.” Diane backed away.
4. can – Instead of I can hear the crows cawing outside my window or I can feel my breakfast churning in my gut, how about I hear the crows cawing and I feel my breakfast churning. OR even better, The crows caw outside my window and My breakfast churns inside my gut. You see how much tighter that is?
5. seem – Instead of telling how something “seems” tell us how it IS. Let us make our own judgments.
6. suddenly – In stories everything is always happening without warning. Suddenly the door burst open. Suddenly she turned to me and kissed me. 95% of the time, you can cut the suddenly.
7. am, was, were – Use active, simple verb structures whenever possible. Instead of We were standing next to the statue write We stood next to the statue.
8. really, very – Unless they’re really very necessary.
9. haughtily, forcefully, and other adverbs – As much as I love the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling had a serious case of adverb-itis. So don’t do it the J.K. way. Show us that someone is haughty or forceful by their words and actions.