When things get old, they shed and begin to smell. Their body oils change and they start to drool.
No, I’m not talking about the folks in the nursing home. I’m talking about my aging black lab. The one who languishes at the end of the couch, making a gray nest of hair, oil and dirt on our cream carpet.
For the record, I never put in the white carpet. It was here when we moved in. It should have been the first thing to go. Now we are waiting for the dog and the kids to go hopefully to different places before we spend the money on new floor covering.
Just like writing.
On a rough draft, we put in white carpet because it’s pretty. We fill our rooms up with children and dogs. And, as in real life, these things can muck up our manuscripts. They have a way of shedding, dragging in dirt, drooling and leaving juice-spilled Rorschachs on the carpet.
Just yesterday I spot cleaned Geriatric Dog’s gray, end-of-the-couch nest and an apple juice drawing. I don’t cry anymore when I walk by the living room. I am also spot cleaning my manuscript.
WHAT IS SPOT CLEANING?
Taking out unnecessary words like “that”, “just” and “like”.
Replacing dialogue tags with action tags. “Don’t drink your juice on the carpet,” I said with a sigh and grabbed my rag to mop up the mess. “Don’t drink your juice on the carpet.” I grabbed my rag to mop up the mess.
Cutting down on descriptive strings. The grumpy, over-worked, tired writer scrubbed the oily, hair-filled, dog-spot until it disappeared. The over-worked writer scrubbed the dog-spot until it disappeared.
Discarding be-verbs. I will be kicking the dog out of her nest. I will kick the dog out of her nest.
Taking out echoes. My dog is old. My dog sheds a lot. My dog is dirty and my dog gets the carpet dirty when she lays on it. My dog is old and dirty. The carpet gets filthy when she sheds.
Eradicate over-active ly’s. Our geriatric lab gingerly walks to the end of the couch so she can slumber blissfully. Our geriatric lab hobbles to the end of the couch for her blissful slumber.
These simple tips can tidy up a manuscript as easily as spraying Oxy Clean on a graying dog-spot. Most of it can be done via find and replace in a Word document, while the rest can be scrubbed out on a subsequent read-through.
What other issues can be spot cleaned from a manuscript?