Cross Out As Many Adjectives and Adverbs As You Can

This quote from E.L. Doctorow seemed appropriate. I’m into my final week of revising my next book, which now has an early release date of early 2010.

Oddly enough my editor never mentioned a word about adjectives and adverbs. I kinda like adjectives and adverbs, and I’ve never had an editor, reviewer or reader complain about my use of them.

Revising has me thinking about–revising. How do we go about it, whether it be at our editor’s request or our own polishing of a finished manuscript?

Here’s how I do it.

First, I fix the easy things. These are often:

Repeated Words – I used “flamed” an awful lot and this story is not about fire.
Spelling and Grammar mistakes – although I often find these as I read through the manuscript
Factual Errors – mixing up names, mixing up dates, historical errors (my English editors are good at catching historical errors)

Then I really just plod through the manuscript, starting at page one.

Here are things that often need fixing in my manuscript:

Character – one or more characters need tweaking, for example, in this book, my hero needed to show his strength sooner; my heroine needed to be not so jaded; my villain needed to be more villanous.
Story threads – some work but some don’t. I sometimes have to delete whole scenes that involve a story thread that isn’t working and add scenes from elements of the story that I didn’t focus on enough.
Telling vs Showing – we all have a tendency to explain our stories rather than to use words that show what the POV character is experiencing. I always find places in the ms where I’ve done this.
Awkward phrases – Some of those word gems I thought were so clever just don’t work when reading with a critical mind-set.
Dialogue tags – how many “he saids” and “she saids” can I eliminate by inserting some action or thought instead?

I have done a little skipping around during this revision process. I’ve needed to add or change some scenes, so I’m constantly going back and forth to be sure I’m not adding more inconsistencies. (Do you ever find that you can’t remember what you wrote before or what comes next?)

My friend MJ Frederick (whose Samhain book Hot Shot is available in paperback this month) told me about a book, Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. Naturally I had to buy it.

The Bell book looks very good! Take a look at the Table of Contents including that great 34 page checklist!
Trouble is, I don’t have time to make the best use of it.

How do you go about revising? Are you systematic? Or do you just plod through, starting with page one? Any good tips out there? (Before it is too late?)

Diane’s website has been updated. Take a look! Diane’s contest ends Feb 10. Hurry and enter to win one of her backlist books.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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