Home Writing Tips Writing Tips: Spot Cleaning Doesn’t Work by Em Petrova

Writing Tips: Spot Cleaning Doesn’t Work by Em Petrova

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Spot Cleaning Doesn’t Work

By Em Petrova

When it comes to writing, plot, prose and characterization are only part of the battle. Before you send it out to that perfect agent, editor or publisher, you need to edit. For beginners, this can be a daunting task. You have no clue where to begin. Besides the obvious self-editing (aka obsessing) you do when revising, what else is there?

Once I’ve finished a manuscript, this is how I proceed. I go to wordle.net and create a new word cloud. You’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Just do it. Now.
http://www.wordle.net

Click on “create,” then paste your entire manuscript into the box. It will spit out a word cloud of your most used words. Or in this case most overused words. You’ll likely see your character’s names or place names in there as the biggest offenders. But if you see words like “that, was, like, is,” you’ve just found one of the areas where you need to concentrate. For me, I often find I’ve overused the word “back.” After poring over an entire 80,000 word manuscript for that word a couple times, I now think long and hard before I type it. That’s called writing to the edits.

Next it’s important to do a thorough spell check. But don’t just look for typos. Find those little beasties that are used in the incorrect form. There/Their. Bare/Bear. These mistakes make you look incompetent to an agent or editor.

Lastly, when editing, I do a thorough read-thru, all in one sitting if possible, and correct plot holes and discrepancies such as the spelling of heroine’s name changing halfway through the book, or hero was cupping her cheek but suddenly he’s standing across the room from her. These small errors add dead weight to the manuscript, and you don’t want to give the publishing industry another reason to reject your work. After all, it’s one of the toughest businesses out there. If you put your best foot forward, it just might wedge in the door.

Em Petrova
~where words mean so much more~
http://www.empetrova.com
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