Seamless Self-Editing––Part IV

letter writingGetting published traditionally is difficult. Publishers look for ways to disqualify submissions. Small publishers are more likely to accept a manuscript from a previously unpublished author, yet they are the ones who require “publish-ready” submissions. Possibly because their small staff doesn’t have time to edit a novel––or they only accept from the best of the unpublished. That can be discouraging, but we should look at it as a challenge to improve our writing. Click to Tweet #amwriting #publishready

Last week, I used information I received from a workshop which Andy Scheer taught. You can learn more about him and his services at

I’ll continue giving tips from my notes this week on double attributes and double modifiers.

Double Attributes

An “attribute” in dialogue is a tag. We say that a character said this and did that. Here’s an example: “It’s chilly, but let’s take a walk,” Sally said, and put on her sweater. This is a double attribute. Sally “said” is one attribute. Sally “put on her sweater” is another attribute. You could write it one way or the other, but both are not needed. Most fiction today uses the latter attribute as a dialogue tag, in order to create “beats” which help break up long speeches in dialogue to help the reader process what they’re reading while they’re reading.

“It’s chilly, but let’s take a walk.” Sally put on her sweater.

When you use this kind of attribute, you make the dialogue a sentence, so you put a period at the end instead of a comma. If you use the words “Sally said,” you’d use a comma. It’s actually easier to use a period, and it creates that beat.

BOLODouble Modifiers

We writers love to use words, and if we’re teachers as well, we’ll use many more than we need to get the point across. Because teachers are always looking at the different angles to make their thoughts clear. If one way doesn’t work, they’ll try another.

Double modifiers such as two adjectives together or an adjective and an adverb, weaken, instead of strengthen the sentence. They convey the matter more than once. In order to have a clean, tight manuscript, choose the most powerful descriptive word.

Example: The dog was so filthy and dirty that Brad couldn’t see where the grime stopped and fur began.

Filthy and dirty both mean the same thing. Choose the most powerful word. In my book that would be filthy.

Another way of changing this sentence for a greater impact would be to say:

The dog was so grimy Brad couldn’t tell where the fur began.

I also eliminated needless words. Something we also need to do when going through our manuscripts.

Self–editing helps our manuscripts become as tight as we can make them. We need to give ourselves every chance to not be disqualified by sloppy writing. Click to Tweet #amwriting #selfediting

What about you? Have you found these in your writing? I’m sure I have. Leave a comment and let me know.

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