Many beginning writers end up with enormous word counts. (If you want to check out my story, it's over on my blog today).
Trimming Tip #1 -- Adjectives & Adverbs
Cut. Cut. Cut. Sure you need a few adjectives, and sometimes they enhance your prose, but be careful! I'm not an especially visual person or writer, but I was floored when I first learned this tip and realized how many adjectives I had in my draft. Nearly every sentence was sprinkled with writerly words that screamed AMATEUR!
Ditto the above advice for adverbs. It's a little easier to edit for these though. Use that handy-dandy Find tool (CTRL F) and search for 'ly'. We all know not all adverbs end in ly, but many do, and this tool makes it easy to spot them. It also takes you out of the flow of reading the story, which is very important when editing. Often replacing your verb/adverb combination with a stronger/more explicit verb makes your sentence stronger.
Trimming Tip #2 -- Cutting Scenes
Whole scenes. As you're editing, ask yourself about the purpose of the scene. If it's not moving the story along, not increasing the tension or the conflict or the stakes, bring out the sword and slash away. Painful, yes, but maybe you can keep some of them as bonus content for visitors to your website. (Make sure the quality is high, after all, there's a reason you're cutting in the first place!)
Trimming Tip #3 -- Filler Words
We all have them. Some of them are more obvious than others. Once I feel pretty good about a draft, I dump my story into Wordle and eliminate all the proper nouns (right click then delete). The bigger the word, the more times it appears. Then use that CTRL F tool to help you find and eliminate as many as you can.
Some words that often appear as fillers:
just, suddenly, again, eyes, look/looked/looks, seemed/seems, feels/felt, smiles/smiled, really, very, maybe, quite, started to...
Trimming Tip #4 -- Qualifiers
Eliminating words and phrases like 'a bit', 'a little', 'sort of', 'seemed to' 'felt like', can all make your writing stronger and, as an added bonus, make your characters less wishy-washy at the same time. If someone's mad, let him/her be all the way mad!
Trimming Tip #5 -- Echoes
This is my Achilles' heel. As the self-proclaimed Queen of Redundancies, I've literally cut thousands of words by eliminating phrases and sentences where I'm repeating information already provided. Trust your readers not to be idiots, they'll get it the first time. (<-- Which is a great example of a sentence including an echo!)
Trimming the fat out of that draft will do nothing but enhance your story. Don't be afraid of that delete key. If it helps, imagine Legolas or Aragorn at your side, sword in hand, as you slash your way to a stronger story!
Do you enjoy the Slash 'n' Burn rounds of editing?
Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.