Against The Ropes In The Editing Ring

Having recently finished editing and revising my first novel, I’ve had time to reflect on that part of my writing journey and it’s taught me quite a lot about the way I write first drafts.

Reading through the first two or three chapters, I noticed certain words cropping up much more often than was necessary, so I started making a list and had it open all the time I edited. My list comprised:







Every time I came across one of these words I removed or changed it (or the sentence), except for the odd occasion where ‘that’ or ‘just’ actually worked better. The effect this had on the writing was surprisingly marked. The sentences flowed better, I used more appropriate descriptive words and phrases and I ‘showed’ rather than ‘told’.

The other side of this was where I found myself against the ropes. Some of the sentences didn’t make sense when these words were removed and I had to dig deep into my creative wellspring to rework them. This was quite a large learning curve and despite the angst it caused, I’m glad I had to punch my way through it.

The way I see it, this can only make me a better writer in the long run. Now when I write, I have the list of words in my brain and when I see myself typing them I stop, look and correct the text immediately.

Of course, this is on top of all the grammatical checking, the reading aloud, checking timelines were accurate – the list is endless, or that’s how it seems . . . at first. But, perseverance pays off and my novel is now in the hands of my beta reader. I’m nervously awaiting the feedback yet I’m not as daunted by having to revise or edit again, not like I was in the beginning. I’ve learned a great deal from this experience and it’s all good.

Maybe it won’t take me as long to edit my next piece of work. Here’s hoping.

What extraneous words do you find keep cropping up in your writing? How do you feel about the editing and revising process? Does it fill you with dread or do you look forward to it?





3 thoughts on “Against The Ropes In The Editing Ring

  1. I understand what you mean when you mention checking for specific words. I find it is impossible for me to do this by reading the story because I get caught up in it and skip over the words. So what I do is I use the “find” function of the Microsoft Word program to find specific words. Then instead of looking at the story I look at the sentences in which the words are. I look upon this as using a microscope to double check my writing!

  2. “Was” is another word we should try to avoid. Some publishers won’t allow you to use it unless absolutely necessary. We all know it’s necessary many times. It sure does make you dig into your creative process to come up with better sentences. It still amazes when I see how a sentence can be turned around and made better. The other words you mentioned are usually on some editors’ no, no list. It’s smart of you to get a head start on getting rid of those words. When I write emails and blogs I cringe each time I have to write one of these words, but I use them in most daily writings; not novels though. I use the find feature too, as your previous commenter mentioned. Also watch for too many “!” which can be overused as well. As far as dreading or loving editing, I’m kind of mixed. I love it in the beginning, but knowing when to stop can be difficult for me. Great post, Carlie, my Twitter friend.

  3. Great post – yeah, it’s amazing how the same words can pop up in that initial draft. For me it’s ‘but’ and ‘however’, and I tend to over-use semicolons. All fixable, but it takes a lot of care and sometimes that “better” word just doesn’t seem to want to pop in there. Usually I’ll keep on editing right up to the death-knock of the publisher deadline.

    Matthew Wright

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