Editing – especially cutting words – is part of the writing process. Don’t be afraid to cut words – if they don’t add anything. Words that are unnecessary are called “deadwood.”
It is hard to delete words and sections. However, if deleting 1,000 words would make your book better, then that’s what you must do. Don’t mourn the loss of those 1,000 words. They gave their lives so your book will help other people. It’s a worthy sacrifice. Honor those words – and move on.
Sometimes, I’m prouder I cut 1,000 words from the manuscript of “How to Write Your Book in a Flash” than I am when I have written 1,000 words.
A good editor could probably trim 2-3 percent of your words without you even realizing it. They have an eye for removing filler words.
I cut more than 1,000 words – about 2 percent of the words – from this book’s first draft when I searched for 8 items in my editing checklist. Use this checklist before sending the book to beta readers and editors. You probably won’t catch every error: but you’ll make their job easier. The errors they do catch will be a blessing to you.
My favorite editing tips, which I learned when I worked as a newspaper copy editor, are:
• “That” can usually be removed. If it sounds good without it, you’re set. It if sounds awkward without it, keep it. (e.g. “Here is another outline format that you might find useful.” Remove “that” and the sentence reads fine).
• “There are” usually can be eliminated and the sentence can be rewritten stronger. (There are five reasons to write. They are: Five reasons to write are:)
• “The” can be cut sometimes. (e.g. Which book will help the most? Which book will help most?)
• “The” can be cut if it refers to a noun and you can make the noun plural. (e.g. The book will help. Books will help.)
• A prepositional phrase starting with “of,” could be rewritten (i.e., “the title of the book” becomes “the book title.”
• Prepositional phrases using “of” can be deleted sometimes. (i.e. each of these tasks. Each task.)
• Is/are and a verb ending in “ing” can be changed to the verb form only (i.e. He is cutting trees. He cuts trees.)
• Usually, you can cut these words. Read the sentence without the word and see how it looks and hear how it sounds.
– even (I cut 20 of those in this book!)
You’d be surprised how many times you can do this and how many words you can trim.
If you see ways to trim this story, please let me know. Everyone needs an editor!