Over the last few weeks, I have been going back and forth over my manuscript, tightening up the language. Here are the things that I can recall looking for in particular:
- Adverbs. This is always the first step, accomplished by looking for “ly “, “ly.” and “ly,” It has the added benefit of letting you see other word use problems, of which I seemed to have an abundance for this book.
- “Going to”. Man, did I ever overuse this phrase. I noticed it when I did my adverb hunt.
- “Well” to start a sentence. It took three nights to sweep the manuscript for this word. This was a problem in Magic Mirror, as well.
- “As well.” Yeah, I overuse this one, too. See above sentence. I saw it so often that I paused my “well” search to look for this in particular.
- Contractions in speech. I don’t tend to use contractions as frequently as I should when writing dialog. Everyone sounds terribly proper as they enunciate their words perfectly. So I have to go back and add a few. I also added contractions in stream-of-consciousness episodes, when you’re basically reading my character’s thoughts.
- Colloquialisms. I also don’t use these enough. I believe this comes from avoiding colloquialisms with every other book I have written, which have all taken place in a medieval setting, where colloquialisms are inappropriate. They are appropriate in this story, where the main characters are from the present day, and are in their 20s. So I salted in some gonnas, gottas, ain’ts and similar words.
- “Basically”, “Actually”, “Quite”, “Rather”. Depending on the decade or century of my characters’ origins, they tended to overuse these words. I purged them.
- Grammar and Style Check. As Microsoft Word has matured, the grammar and style tool has improved. Even though I still often disagree with the problem or the suggested fix, it usually succeeds in highlighting sentences that need some kind of attention.
When I finished with all these sweeps, I found that I purged 1000 words from the manuscript. I now stand at 114,533 words.
My overall impression is that I have gotten sloppy. The grammar and style check uncovered more passive voice than I can recall ever having let slip through before. Once, I had the habit of questioning every use of a “to-be” verb, not just passive voice. It made my voice so much richer. I need to get back into that habit.