Thinkin’ on Thursday: Edits, COLD and HARD, Can Be Good for You!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

At the recent five‑day Writing and Illustrating for Young People [WIFYR] workshop/ conference, several author/volunteers were subjected to a Cold Hard Reading, run by Cheri Pray Earl — who was joined by various editors and agents who were there. It’s a very scary thing to go through. They put one page for each volunteer up on screen where everyone can see it, then the panel subjects the piece to a searing, if not brutal, review.

But, I’m telling you: let your ego go, and see what you can learn!

I happened to be in Cheri’s morning class all week, so the day of the whole‑group effort, she practiced in our class on all of us! I’m pretty picky with my word choices, and some review edits on my part would have caught some of the things she did in my page. I wouldn’t want to expose anyone else’s “messes,” so I’ll only tell you a few she found in mine:

Using –ly words:

Adverbs. To avoid them, use stronger verbs

A hiatus:

A pause in the narrative, often indicated by a blank space or a symbol like an asterisk, etc. In my case, the end of the first part and the beginning of the next part did not mesh well together.

Repetitions:

“She, herself, had become lost.” Simplify: why not just “She became lost.”?

Rhythm:

I love to use rhythm in my writing – even much of my prose is “poetic” – but it’s jangling when the rhythm is “off”.

Few, very:

Any repetitions are off‑putting, but when they’re small, inconsequential words like “few” or “very” and don’t add to the story, cut them.

Favorites:

What I refer to as “faves” ‑ we all have favorite words which we use over and over. Become aware of what yours are. Some common ones, in addition to the two above, are that, it, there. Timeline words, too, can become “faves,” especially then and now. Trust your reader more: if you are telling things in a logical order you almost never need to specify “then” or “now.” And we tend to compound the problem by using those words over and over.

These ideas are only a small part of what happened to be touched on in my one page. Take a look at your own: avoid adverbs (especially the –ly ending variety). Be sure your narrative makes sense from one section to the next, whether you’ve used hiatus or section or chapter divisions. Watch out for repetitions words: and the culprits aren’t always your particular “faves”: any word repeated within a few lines or paragraphs begins to stick out. If you have a good ear for rhythm, and you use it in your writing, be sure to make it consistent.

See you next for Saturday’s Softcover!

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