Saturday, November 9, 2013

Carving Into Your Manuscript By Layla Chase

*Originally published in the Greenhouse on the Wild Rose Press website

Carving Into Your Manuscript By Layla Chase

At holiday meals, have you ever noticed the fuss about who gets the honor of carving the turkey or goose? Expertise is involved and most usually profess not wanting to be in charge of the meal's centerpiece. Don't we all suspect the carver secretly enjoys the attention and resulting accolades? We as writers are the masters or mistresses of our creative masterpieces-our manuscripts. So, let's all grab a sharp knife and dig in.

Let's work on word editing and rearranging sentences to elicit the maximum effect.

Gerunds-cut to the real meat of the sentence when describing a character's movements

 EX: Running into the house, she dialed John's number on her cell phone. (Ouch-shouldn't she dial 911. My first impression was the character literally hitting the outside wall.)

 EX: Opening the door, he flipped on the light and drew his gun. (Almost sounds like the character has 3 hands, which is okay if this is science fiction and he's an alien.)
Cause & effect-Slice into the middle of the sentence to retrieve the event that initiates a reaction.

 EX: The sound increased when James swung open the door to his house.(effect before cause)

 EX: When James opened the front door, the sound of the lawnmower intensified.(cause then effect)
Power words-save those luscious words for the end where they give the most flavor

 EX: The night was noisy, then Caleb felt the danger all around him. (telling and vague)

 EX: The croaking frogs and whirring cicadas quieted, the hairs on his arms prickled, then Caleb sensed danger. (specific details and ends with power word)

 EX: The mangled corpse was covered with blood from head to toe.(passive)

 EX: Every square inch of the mangled corpse dripped with blood. (pumped verb, power word at end)

 EX: Blood dripped from every square inch of the mangled corpse. (another power word)
Overuse of adverbs-think of them as a spice that should be sprinkled, not shaken. Use of words ending in -ly often indicates a weak verb needs to be boosted.

 EX: Maddie walked smartly across the room.

 EX: Maddie strode across the room.

 EX: Mr. Jensen talked softly to his wife about the movie.

 EX: Mr. Jensen whispered to his wife about the movie.

With the inclusion of these tips in your self-editing process, you'll have your manuscript lean and mean in no time. Happy carving!

Reprinted with permission from

1 comment:

Kathy Otten said...

In example #6 wouldn't the end of that sentence, ...then Caleb sensed danger., also be telling? The prickling of the hair on his arms and the sudden quiet show us he senses danger. If it were me, I'd probably just delete it. What do you think?