Trick from the Editor’s Hat: A List of Crutch Words

You spend hours, days, even weeks editing. You're struggling to get through it — but don't give up. Writing a story is easy; shaping it into something worth reading is where the true talent of the writer lies.

Here is just one of the many tricks that I employ when editing both my own and clients' writing.

CREATE A SPREADSHEET OF CRUTCH WORDS

While writing, we often have a list of words that we'll fall back on when we can't think of another word to write. Sometimes, we don't even realise that we're doing it. It's not until our critique partners, beta readers, or editors point it out to us that we see the repetitive word glaring at us.

"How could I have missed that? It's as obvious as the nose on my face."

Well, it's quite easy to miss things when you don't know that they're a problem. However, the solution is surprisingly simple.

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Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Apps that Read Aloud

You spend hours/days/weeks editing and you’re struggling to get through it. Here is just one of the many tricks one could when editing.

Use an app to read your story to you

Many will happily agree that hearing a passage will trigger different editing skills than reading a passage. When we read a passage, our brains often fill in the missing words or correct the awkward sentence so it reads as we think it should, but it’s not what it says. As mentioned in a previous post, reading a passage aloud allows you to register unnatural dialogue, awkward phrases and many other things that could have been missed.

Let’s face reality: not everyone is comfortable with reading things aloud to themselves, but there is a solution. There are apps out there that will read a story to you.

If you are on a Mac system, the app for this is already built-in. Programs like Scrivener have incorporated the Mac text-to-speech features into its operations. Some of the voices are extremely unemotional and computerized, but a few of them aren’t. It might take some trial-and-error to find the voice that works for you, but at least the option is there.

Windows now have these systems built-in too, however, they don’t seem to be as developed as the Mac versions. Saying that, there’s nothing stopping you from downloading an app or using an on-line one.

You could convert your manuscript to a format suitable for an eBook reader and use the text-to-speech functions on that. My Kindle provides me with a male and female voice options. (Both of them make me laugh when they attempt to read some of the unconventional character names.)

There are also text-to-speech apps available for Andoid and iOS.

If you can force yourself past the laughing fit that will likely ensue when that computerized Stephen Hawking voice starts reading your erotic sex scene, this could provide another way to pick up those editing blunders that you might have missed otherwise.

(Now I think I’ll go hunt out those hot and steamy scenes to throw through a text-to-speech program. I could use a good laugh.)

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Use Paper or an Ebook Reader

You spend hours/days/weeks editing and you’re struggling to get through it. Here is just one of the many tricks that I employ when editing both my own and clients’ writing.

Use Paper or an eBook Reader

I never do all my editing directly on the computer. The back-lit screen is too much on my eyes. The smooth reflective surface will catch the overhead lighting, adding to the eye strain. This is why I don’t use a tablet for editing either. They too are back-lit and reflective. No, when I can, when the size of a document permits me, I will print out the manuscript and pull out my trusty red pen, writing all over that printed document. In those instances where the manuscript is too large, say 100k words, then out comes my Kindle and I’ll read the document on that, adding comments and notes to the file as I go. (Yes, you can do that on a Kindle.)

Here’s the deal. When editing on good old-fashioned paper, our tactile sensations kick in and we see things differently. Don’t ask my why, I’m not a psychologist. All I know is that’s the way our minds work. Not only that, the illumination of a computer screen does add to eye strain; this is not good when you need to spend hours reading and editing.

eInk technology, the technology employed in the screens of traditional eBook readers, such as Kindle and Kobo, was developed with eye strain in mind, reducing glare and lighting, emulating the paper effect on eyes as closely as possible. While reading from an eBook, you won’t engage the tactile sensations as you would with editing on paper, but you can still read/edit for longer hours then if you did all your editing on the computer.

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.

Get Exclusive Content & Supplementary Resources For Writers
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: The “Was” Edit

When editing a manuscript, one should always be looking at ways to tighten the writing and language used. There are many tricks that one can employ. Here is one that I often pull out of my hat when editing.

The “Was” Edit

This editing technique is incredibly simple: search for every instance of is/are/was/were and ask yourself if can you reword that sentence to removed that instance of was-type words.

Considering the following:
Gary was working on the wagon.
Simple:
Gary worked on the wagon.
However, it’ll gladly admit that this edit is boring and not very inspirational.

But what about something not so obvious:
He was taller than me.
To remove the was, one needs to actually add a bit of detail, turning this tell statement into show.
He stood two inches taller than me.
The only down side with above line is that it adds words. If you write word-heavy, this could be a problem.

There will be instances where the words is/are/was/were will be necessary, so one should never do a generic delete, but it’s been my experience that in seven out of ten cases, the sentence can be restructure to not only get rid of the dreaded was, but to also give the sentence that something more.

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.


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Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Read Aloud

You’re staring at a manuscript that you have spent countless hours, days, weeks, preparing for publication or submission. It’s as stellar as you can make it. Or is it?

Here is just one of the tricks that I occasionally pull out of my hat when editing. This technique is the best method of making dialogue sound natural and will pick up the awkward sentences faster than any other method. There are times when I use this technique while writing too. It is one of the best tricks one can have stashed under their hat.

Read Aloud

You can read a line over and over again, but you still don’t see the mistake. It’s something incredibly simple, like a missing “the”, but you still don’t see it. Our eyes filter what our minds see. The eyes make the corrections needed and hence our brains don’t register anything different. However, when we read something out, vocalize the line, our brains work differently. And guess what… That missing “the” becomes obvious.

Reading aloud is one of the best methods that any writer/editor could have stashed under their hat. So many things can be picked up when one hears it compared to reading it.

If you are editing dialogue, it is highly recommended to read the passage aloud. Put on an accent, pretend you’re the character. Feel free to add in the body actions too. You will be amazed with the number of writers that on first drafts spell out words in full, but when they speak the line, here comes the contraction. Or you’ll hear how an accented voice can be written, changing the order of the words.

In a long section of narrative prose, you’ll hear if a sentence is necessary or whether it can be rephrased to give it more impact. And don’t forget that you’ll hear all the awkward phrasings too.

Some people feel self-conscious by reading out their stories, even when they’re in the room alone. Read to your cat or dog. Read to the parrot, however, be careful if that bird is likely to mimic your awkward sentence. No doubt they’ll pick up on the one phrase that you didn’t want shared with your family and friends.

Of all my editing tricks, I would say this one is the one I use the most, on client’s work and my own. My brain processes audio so much better.

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.


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Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: The Backwards Edit

You’re staring at a manuscript that you have spent countless hours, days, weeks, preparing for publication or submission. It’s as stellar as you can make it. Or is it?

Here is just one of the tricks that I occasionally pull out of my hat when editing. It can be slow going, but it can help you isolate those awkward, sticky sentences and eliminate those beasts.

The Backwards Edit

During a backwards edit, you read a manuscript from the last sentence backwards to the first. When you do this, you’re unable to focus on the story; sentences lose their contextual meaning. As a consequence you focus entirely on the words.

Is that word really needed? Can that sentence be restructured to say the same thing, but in a tighter way? Is that sentence active or passive? Is that sentence even needed?

A backwards edit can be incredibly slow going, and is not something that I utilise very often. One has to be disciplined to the extreme to persevere with a backwards edit through a 100,000 word manuscript. It’s far to tempting to read forward. There will be sentences that make no sense, whatsoever, without the forward contextual information, but that’s the point. You’re editing without context.

The biggest failing with editing a manuscript in the forward fashion (from the first sentence to the last) is that the beginning of a story becomes so well edited that the editor/writer gets sucked in and fails to see the flaws in the later half of the manuscript. And sometimes, the story itself can be so gripping that one can forget that they were meant to be editing. By removing the context, reading backwards, you remove that threat.

However, backwards editing has one major downfall: you’re editing without context. Sometimes, that sentence or word is necessary for the context to happen. You remove the word/sentence and suddenly the whole scene falls apart. This is why backwards editing takes so long. Not only are you scanning back up through a passage, searching for where the sentence starts, but you’re also taking a brief moment to read the passage forward a sentence or two, to ensure that your edits still makes sense.

Backwards edits are NOT for everyone. Those working on early drafts should always edit in the forward. Early drafts often have developmental issues that need contextual reading to isolate and fix. No, use backwards editing with final drafts only, ensuring that a manuscript is ready for publication or submission.

And if you’re one of those writers that needs context for everything, the odds are you’ll quickly get frustrated with backwards editing and will give up only part way through. Reserve backwards editing for those passages that you feel need that something special, only a page or two. You’ll be surprised what a difference it can make.

View other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.

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