|Photo credit: LucasTheExperience on Flickr|
The final step, however, before hitting “send” on those e-mails is to do one last polish to fix minor issues that can sometimes pull readers out of the narrative or bring attention to the writing. These are some things I try to look for when I do a final polish:
- Overuse of adverbs. While I’m not a writer who believes that all adverbs are evil and need to be annihilated, too many adverbs are frequently a sign of not-as-strong-as-could-be writing. Luckily, this is a relatively easy (if not time-consuming) fix. I generally do a quick “ly” search and eliminate the unnecessary ones, adjust phrases and words to make them stronger and make sure I don’t have too many on a single page.
- Repeated words/phrases/writer ticks. Arched eyebrows, smirking, lip-biting, runnings hands through hair and sighing are actions that my characters tend to repeat a lot. I’m not sure exactly why they’re such crutch phrases when I’m drafting (possibly because I do these things a lot myself?), but invariably my CPs find at least one of these way, way overused in my drafts—and so I do a quick search and destroy to weed some out.
- Unnecessary dialogue tags. This is a very common and easy mistake—and one I still catch myself doing frequently. If you have an action tag with dialogue, then you don’t also need a dialogue tag. For example:
Meh: “What is it?” he asked, tucking her hair behind her ear.
Better: “What is it?” He tucked her hair behind her ear.
It’s redundant and pretty easy to spot.
- Similar character/place names. In early drafts of Red I had SO many S names. S character names, S place names, I just really liked S okay? But unfortunately it gets confusing when you have too many character or place names that sound similar or all start with the same letter, so this is something to keep an eye out for. If you’re not sure, it can sometimes help to write out all the character and place names alphabetically—it’ll become obvious very quickly if you have too many that all start with the same letter or sound similar.
- Continuity errors. This frequently happens when you revise in stages like I do. Sometimes, when you change something major (or even not major, but something that affects other things) you miss little continuity issues. Or you’re like me and forget that you killed off a character in this latest revision round, so that character is magically accidentally resurrected in the final chapter—oops. This can be a little trickier to spot on your own, especially if you’ve looked at your MS so many times, but CPs and betas are quite excellent at honing in on them.
- Told emotions. I’ve already written a post on how to show emotion effectively, so I won’t get into the details again, but this is another very easy to catch fix. When I’m searching for told emotions, I like to do a quick search in my WIP for emotion tags: sad, scared, happy, excited, nervous, etc. Like most search and destroy methods, you don’t need to get rid of every example of told emotion, but many times there are ways to show emotion much more effectively than just naming the emotion, and that’s what you’re looking for here—opportunities to make the sentence stronger.
- Paragraph/sentence length variety. This one can be checked with a quick visual scroll through. Pay attention to the shapes of your paragraphs and where your periods end. Try to avoid giant bricks of text and if you know you tend to overuse a particular sentence/paragraph style (i.e.: short or overly long sentences) keep an eye out to make sure you haven’t overdone it.
So those are my go-to polishing checks—now I want to hear from you. What checks do you do when polishing your WIP?
Think you're ready to send your MS off? @Ava_Jae shares some quick checks to look for with your final polish. (Click to tweet)