By Emilia Mancini (Guest Blogger)
As an editor, I should find that writing comes as easily and smoothly as breathing. However, I am one of those writers who has terrible personal ticks—bad habits that become a part of a writer’s style. For me, the ticks formed early in my writing career—long before becoming an editor and published author—and have stuck with me. I fully recognize that I have these issues, but as personal ticks tend to do, they have been nearly impossible to break.
One of the worst things I do is use the same words and phrases over and over. I latch onto a word and seem to find a way to work it into every paragraph. Several times. This is an incredibly annoying habit to me as an editor, but as a writer it’s one that I can’t stop doing. I now edit my work looking specifically for a word that that wriggles its way in far too often. In my last book that word was “slid.” He slid down her body. She slid his cock into her mouth. They slid onto the floor. I cut out so many instances of “slid,” I was nearly banging my head by the time I finished.
Another tick, one that I can’t seem to get away from, is “filtering”. Rather than just saying someone took a slow drink, I have a terrible habit of saying something like, “He watched her take a slow drink.”
If we are in his point of view, of course he watched her. If he wasn’t seeing her take a drink, we wouldn’t be seeing it either. There is no reason for the writer to constantly tell us he was watching or he looked or he felt. Tighten those sentences up, get rid of those filters, and get right to the point.
The last bad habit that I just recently realized I have, is using the word “again.” Okay, I already said that I fixate on words and over use them, but my abuse of “again” deserves its own tick. If you have this habit as well, stop. Stop now. “He kissed her again.” Or “She moaned his name again.”
Again is a lazy word. It’s basically saying, “I’m too tired or uncreative to find another way to say what is happening.” If you have to use “again,” constantly throughout a scene, take a step back and see what can be altered to shake up your word usage, because I promise you, something can be changed to expand on what you are trying to express.
There are so many ticks and we all have them, we all have things that define our way of writing that makes our editors cringe. The trick is to find those problems and correct them before they make it to the editor’s desk.
Some tips for editing:
1. Walk away and come back later. Reading and re-reading something you just wrote makes it nearly impossible to see your errors. Let it sit for a few hours, or days if you have the patience. When you come back, your brain will more easily see what is actually on the computer screen instead of what you intended to say.
2. No, it’s not easy, but try to read first for content. Fix plot holes and inconsistencies before getting hung up on technical issues. Pay attention to things like eye and hair color and the names of secondary characters. These are things that can easily be mixed up.
3. Read your manuscript again for grammar, those pesky writing ticks, and incorrect spellings that have slipped through your computer’s spell check program.
4. One last step, one that can make a huge difference in how you see your words, is to print the book on paper. If you have the patience, put it aside for a day or two. Then curl up and get to reading.
Though these steps are basic and suggested repeatedly, they are tried and true editing tips that can make the difference between a sloppy first draft and a solid submission that an editor, and hopefully a publisher, can really sink her teeth into. Utilizing all or just a few of these also can help you recognize and correct your own personal ticks—before your editor rips her hair out.
In her “real” life, Emilia Mancini is a Developmental Editor at Musa Publishing, a freelance journalist working for numerous magazines, and a freelance editor/publicist working with independent authors. She has a double BA in Journalism and Public Relations and will earn her MS in Publishing from University of Houston-Victoria in May 2014.
Emilia is published with Musa Publishing, Liquid Silver Books, and Sweet Cravings Publishing (as Marci Boudreaux). Her newest release, Seducing Kate, is now available from Musa Publishing.