From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Addition, subtraction, and editing a novel

See, we writers do math too. Sort of. Some of us (not me) much better than others.

Anyway, I've recently begun edits on Keeper, novel #1. It's coming along pretty well. I'm getting dangerously close to the point where I'm ready to shove it into someone else's hands and be done with it, but not yet. I've come to accept the fact that it's not going to be anywhere near perfect, that there's no such thing as perfect, and that I'm going to need lots of other people's help to make this thing as good as it can possibly be.

With that, there are some things to keep in mind while editing, and for my own sake I thought pulling them all together would be helpful. And so, here is some attempted mathematics of editing a novel.


-Use of the 5 senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. I've heard that smell is particularly powerful.
-Active, exciting, unique verbs that say enough on there own. 'Pelted' or 'barreled' instead of 'ran fast'.
-Higher and higher stakes. What's the worst that can happen? Then make it so (number one).
-Internal conflict. Personal stakes are the highest stakes.
-Flaws. Nobody's perfect, including your characters.


-Adverbs and unnecessary adjectives. Basically any unnecessary words.
-Grammatical errors and overuse of !, ..., and whatever your habit words happen to be. (Mine are 'just' and 'even').
-Unnecessary back-story and/or exposition
-Cliches, and any phrases you got from somewhere else
-Melodrama and gratuitous cussing.

Ok, I think this is a fairly good list, I need to keep it in mind as I go. What else would you put on the addition/subtraction of editing list? I for one could use all the advice I can get.

Sarah Allen


  1. Good ideas! I tend to use three or four words when I should have just used one, so I write "condense" all over my MSs to tighten them up.

  2. good list. I'm reaching that stage myself, will ahve to remember to apply these.


  3. You nailed my failings right there.

  4. I think that the first commenter hit it right, in that you should definitely tighten up your sentences.

    I hate long flowery sentences as a reader, and unless the scene actually called for it, detested it as a writer.

  5. Yes. My dear, chicky. You've got the right equation for self-editing. However, sometimes we miss things because love is blind, you know.

  6. I'm working on the subtraction list at the moment :-)

  7. Ha, love this! It might even make me like math. :)

  8. Okay, so nothing in the world would ever make me love math, but you kind of made me like it a little. LOL. Good luck with your revisions.


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