Cut the excess
No. 1 cause of bad writing: Verbosity – Using more words than necessary while fewer and/or simpler words create energy and elucidate meaning. The fix: Anything and everything that is not directly serving to move the story along must be cut.
Go over every word, every line, every paragraph, every scene, and every chapter and consider how the story would be without it. Did you story get weaker or stronger? Does it need more cutting? Cut until you end up with a piece that works for you.
Here’s a list of must-cuts
- Qualifiers: cut weak qualifiers such as: a little / a bit / rather / sort of/ kind of/ quite/ very/ pretty/ slightly/ mostly. They weaken the mental imagery.
- Needless connectors, such as “because”. They lead to unnecessarily long sentences, which slows the pace.
- Redundant words, such as “the maroon red lamp”. Once will do.
- Check the value of adverbs. Beware of redundant adverbs, such as “young kitten”. Double check use of ‘entire, awfully, highly, mostly, quite, particularly, rather, really, slightly, somewhat, truly, very, terribly’. Word search ‘ly ‘ to find all the adjectives and adverbs.
- Redundant phrases, such as “she thought to herself”. Unless she can plant thoughts into other people’s minds, this phrase is redundant.
- Repetition of plot information. Trust your reader. Spare him excess information. Only repeat if necessary to refocus the reader’s attention, reinforce understanding, create humor effect or signal story events.
- Avoid jargon.
- When in doubt – leave it out!