Crossing Out the Wrong Words

English: Mark Twain (penname of Samuel Langhor...
Mark Twain in the lab of Nikola Tesla, spring of 1894, because he knew Tesla was cool before the kids did.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mark Twain once wrote: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

Sure.  Sounds easy, right?  I suppose one could write an entire novel and then just go back erasing word after word until it is something that might be more presentable.  Of course, he didn’t mean this to be read literally, but Twain’s humor here is about the necessity to edit, to revise, and to re-write.

I am still about 23000 words away from my goal for October 30th (and I am on track to reach that) but I know that the two months I have before the Amazon Break Out Novelist Competition will be two months of fine tuning, slashing and revision.  I decided to list a few tips that I use when editing my work.  I hope these help.

  1. Diction – George Orwell put it best: “Never use a long word where a short word will do.”
  2. Dialogue – Speak it out loud and if it works it will sound right.  On the more difficult dialogue, speak it into an mp3 recorder and then play it back.
  3. Conflict – Do you have some kind of conflict on every page of the text?  If not, cut it out or revise to make some type of conflict occur, be it internal or external.
  4. Mood – Figure out what mood you want to convey and then make sure all adjectives and adverbs follow suit.
  5. Fluff – Get rid of every bit of excess nonsense that does not drive the story along.  If you have several pages of explanation about something, try to insert that into the dialogue or let it be an assumed back story.
  6. Beginnings and Endings – Would your novel be the same or better if you omitted the beginning and the end of the story?  If so, it could make for a much more compelling narrative.
  7. Content – Let your writing be wise but your language be simple.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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