Editing … Killing Weasels and other Tweaks

I’m Lea Wait, and my mystery Tangled Threads is due March 1.

Am I panicked? No, thank goodness. Am I finished writing? Well, the first ten or twenty drafts are done. The plot is as the plot will be, at least until my editor has other ideas. So what am I doing?

I’m tightening, checking timelines, and re-reading and re-reading to make sure I’ve used as few words as I need to tell my characters story.

I read and edit on my computer’s screen. I read and edit a printed copy. I read out loud and edit.

I make a list of characters and check that they all have names starting with different letters. That I haven’t changed a character’s name or hair color or age from edit to edit. I check the red herrings to make sure they’re the right shade of crimson. I check the real clues to make sure they’re there … but not too obvious. I draw a map of the town where my characters live, and make sure all directions in the book are correct. (Tangled Threads is the first in a new series. Many of these exercises will also help me when it comes time to write book two, a month from now.)

Then I check for “weasel words” and overused words. Weasel words are the kind I use when I’m really describing a thing, and should just be naming it. Words like “kind” and “really” and “thing” and “just”. I enter them in my “find” function and I double check (or triple or quadruple) to make sure I’ve eliminated as many as I can, and that I haven’t repeated words on a page. (My thesaurus is open on my desk.)

Most writers have words they find themselves using too often. (“Too” is one.) “Just” is one of mine. Some others you may use? Some. Quite. Probably. Very. Usually. So. Generally. I guess. I think. Possibly. And more.

Other checks? replacing passive verbs with active ones. Killing “There is” or “There are” or “It is” sentences, or rewriting them. Getting rid of adverbs and replacing them with stronger verbs.

Making sure sentences make sense. “I know who the killer is,” Jody smiled. I don’t think so. Try “I know who the killer is,” Jody said, smiling.

It’s amazing how many times those errors creep in no matter how many times I read my manuscript.

So I check all those word usages and facts and plot progressions. I tweak.

And then I read the manuscript over again, one more time. And edit out all the mistakes I put in while tweaking.

And, finally, I press the Send button. And I open champagne.

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7 Responses to Editing … Killing Weasels and other Tweaks

  1. Always enjoy your posts on editing, Lea. Thank you! And big congratulations on your new series.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Thank you, Vicki!

  3. Barb Ross says:

    Good luck, Lea, as you come down the homestretch! (Not that you need it.)

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Always need a bit of luck, Barb! Thank you!

  5. Karla Whitney says:

    Extremely helpful to read your editing process. Thank you. And congratulations!

  6. Lil Gluckstern says:

    The more I learn about your writing process, the more I respect you and the book I hold in my hand!

  7. MCWriTers says:

    Thank you, Lil and Karla!

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