My current work in progress is not a complete story, but still needs to be polished so it can be graded and submitted to Hoover Library. In my first editing pass, I read the whole thing and make notes on a separate tablet (the paper kind). This is a general, overall review of the story. Since I’m a pantser, the story develops as I write it. Characters morph, situations crop up, and plot devices ensue so I make notes on what needs to be beefed up or changed, if I noted opportunities for motif or metaphor, and holes that need filled.
My second pass of edits included critiques. Because I am in a hurry with this, I posted it for the Ladies before I would normally seek critiques so they read a very raw story. They gave me a lot of good feedback which has been incorporated along with some of the things I’d noted in my first pass. Some of it hasn’t been used yet because it’s stuff that needs to be added/addressed after the project is finished.
Onward to the third pass. This is my Search and Destroy pass and it is out of order, too, due to the time sensitivity of this project. I need to fix the climax, which is a bump instead of an apex, and there are some other scenes that could use some serious re-working but since I don’t have ideas on how to fix those, I’m moving on to Search and Destroy. I use the ‘find’ tool and plug in words that weaken my writing. When writing the first draft, I pay zero attention to things like ‘to be’ verbs, the use of the word just, and start/begin phrases. I use Search and Destroy to get rid of those.
I have a list of over 400 words divided into nine categories. The first two are the most important for me to destroy – My Overused Words and Passive Voice words. Then there are Absolutes, Adverbs, Continuous Action Words, Telling Words, Time Transitions, Vague Words, and Other. Callie James has a good list that can be found here. Some are easy to fix (start/begin, very). Others take some keyboard head banging. Here are some examples of what I found when I searched on certain words in my 40,000 word WIP:
- One of my grossly overused words – Just – 80 matches.
- Start (started, starting) – 46 matches – some of these will stay because it isn’t used as a character is starting to do something.
- Another of my overused words – Very – 61 matches. The matches include every, everyone, everything, etc, which need attention also as they are absolutes but vague.
- Since – 36 matches.
- Realize(d) – 11 matches.
- A passive cue: been – 92 matches (yikes).
- Another passive cue: was – wait for it – 324 matches (double yikes).
Mark Twain is credited for saying, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” What are your Search and Destroy words and techniques?