For Christmas, Dear Hubby and I exchanged bed sets.
We replaced our old and ratty one for a shiny, new one. It was time. The mattress was sagging, the dressers were nicked up and the night stand was really an end table masquerading as a place to put our lamp.
Our new bedroom is dark, heavy and full of clean lines. There is nothing extra in our room and, in fact, we purged a chair, some pictures, candles and other “things”. We also replaced the dingy, four-kids-and-a-dog, white carpet (not our choice) for a yummy chocolate flecked, low nap piece that will wear much better.
It was a great exchange and reminds me of my latest edit project. Getting rid of favorite words, phrases and scenes can be extremely difficult. Obviously I wrote them for a reason. I loved them. I wanted to keep them forever. But somewhere along the way, they got worn out.
Like the carpet, they didn’t withstand multiple readings. They became faded and matted down. No longer exciting to walk on. Chapters became catch-alls for extra words like our dressers collecting trinkets. Shiny baubles that we thought spruced up the place. In reality, they did nothing but clutter.
Thanks to two outstanding critiquers, she-who-shall-remain-nameless and my cyber buddy, my chapter book manuscript has been pared down to the essentials. I ditched the pretty baubles and replaced them with strong, active words that moved the story along.
Monday I finished up my “final” edit and have since fallen in love with my story all over again. Just in time. An agent I queried last spring requested a full. To non-writers, that means, the agent wants to read the entire manuscript before deciding whether he/she wants to represent it. It’s a huge step in the endless cycle of submissions.
So how can we ensure our manuscripts have clean, uncluttered lines? In theory, the process is simple. In practice, it can be hard–if only because parting with things we created can be gut-wrenching. Here’s how I edit.
- Print out a paper copy of the rough draft and attack it. I cut entire chapters, add new ones and generally do a lot of road work–filling in plot holes and connecting the story arc to make sure my road gets from point A to point B.
- Fix story discrepencies, fill out characters, watch for typos (always) and pay attention to things like pet words (that, suddenly, etc), dialogue tags (adding action rather than he sighed, she harrumphed) and weak verbs (replacing was going with things like ran, trudged and snuck). Beta readers are helpful at this stage.
- Read the manuscript from front to back to “listen” with my reader’s ear.
- Repeat steps 1-3 until I have replaced my old and ratty manuscript for a shiny, new one.
How do you exchange your rough draft for a clean-lined, ready to submit manuscript? What kinds of things do you find cluttering up your metaphorical dresser? What wears down your writing like foot-traffic on a carpet?
Happy editing~ cat
P.S. As a side note, agents and editors are like interior decorators–no matter how perfect our manuscripts might seem to us, they have an eye for finding a better color combo, a great accent piece and the forgotten plot bunnies hiding under the bed.