Step 3 – Polish Prose

How to polish prose? Smooth the reading. For example: changing words or phrases.

Golden rule mantra:

Prefer the familiar to the unknown word.
Prefer the single word to a long description: say ‘boulder’ rather than ‘large rock’.
Prefer the simple to the complicated: say ‘use’ rather than ‘utilization’.
Prefer the short word to the long.
Prefer the standard to the off-beat.
Prefer the specific to the general.
Prefer the definite to the vague.
Prefer the concrete to the abstract.

Polish Prose Check Points

  • check for unnecessary adverbs
  • check your verbs for specificity and movement
  • catch phrases
  • rhythm
  • break up long sentences
  • check for passive voice
  • check word choice definitions on terms you’re not 100% certain about
  • analyse your text for the habit of overusing a particular word
Common Mistake – The unintentional wimp character

Select a character and check for the following:

  • Take a breath / Exhale / Sigh etc
  • Shrug
  • Hesitates
  • Has visceral responses to minor triggers (heart attack from the toast popping out of the toaster? Wimp…)
  • Indulges in negative and passive emotions such as sadness or grief
  • Has tears in their eyes or moist eyes
  • Thinking for more than one line at a time
  • Bites their lip/cheek/nails
  • Freezes
  • Clenches their jaw (suppressed anger)
  • Gulps / swallows hard / clears throat / drops jaw
  • Stares in disbelief
  • Tries or attempt something. Double the points if this is connected to emotion.
  • “Feels” (He felt sad/ he felt happy etc)
  • “Finds himself” (He found himself at her front door)
  • Involuntary actions / unconscious action
  • A body part performs the action instead of the character (His hands reached her lips)

If your character scores 3 or more wimp points in a scene, he’s a wimp. If your character scores 10-15 or more points in the whole story, he’s a wimp.

*Exceptions: romance novels allow for more wimp points. Females are allowed more wimp points than males. Having one of each makes your character look less of a wimp than repeated wimp actions.

How to fix an unintended wimp

Example: Character tried or attempted something.
Wimp: She hesitated and bit her lip.
Timid: She hesitated.
Spunky: She halted.

Wimp: She tried to pull with all her might.
Spunky: She pulled with all her might but the knot would not come loose.