Seamless Self-Editing––Part III

Andy Scheer

Andy Scheer

In this series, we’re focusing on editing our own work, to make it the best we can, so it has a better chance of being “publish-ready.” More publishers, especially small ones, are headed this direction. The smaller publishers used to be more likely to publish an unknown author. Not anymore. If you’re unknown, your manuscript will have to be pretty-near perfect in order to be considered. Click to Tweet #amwriting #selfediting

This week, we’ll look at tips I received from Andy Scheer, editor and agent. You can check him out at

Subtle Redundancies

I have to admit I’m guilty of these. A redundancy is, according to Webster’s, is to “use more words than necessary, unnecessary to the meaning.” Here are a few examples, especially that I use:

She shrugged her shoulders. (what else would she shrug?)

He blinked his eyes (what else would he blink?)

She nodded her head. (what else nods?)

He clapped his hands. (what else claps?)

It’s these sorts of redundancies that make our manuscripts wordy and show we aren’t thinking while we’re writing. Sometimes, getting the story out is more important. When we self-edit, we do it after the story is drafted, on our revisions and edits. We want to submit a sharp and tight manuscript. Finding these little things will help us make our revisions to present a clean story.

SSE-P3Intrusive Attributions

These attributions intrude or cause a reader to be taken out of the story world. Here’s an example, “You’re doing well,” she encouraged. The “she encouraged” isn’t necessary. A beat or tag is different. You could say, “You’re doing well,” she smiled. That’s a tag, but it’s not intrusive, and it “shows,” rather than “tells,” what the speaker is doing. (Show v. tell is a completely different lesson, and we’re not going to get into that here.).

More examples:

“I don’t know,” he answered. You could change this to: “I don’t know.” He looked down.

“Here’s how to do it,” he explained. “Here’s how to do it.” He picked up a hammer and nail.

Dialogue tags that tell: explained, replied, encouraged, retorted, responded, complained, argued, etc.

It is acceptable to use “whispered” or “shouted.” But only on occasion. People never grunt, bark, smile, or laugh while they talk. That’s why it must be a separate sentence. Click to Tweet #amwriting #selfediting

Next week, we’ll continue. What about you? Have you found yourself doing some of these things? Leave a comment and let me know.

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