Garbage gets in the way of the good stuff, causes the whole house to stink and basically makes it difficult to get anything done. Living in a house full of men means that the garbage piles up fast, and I have to stay on top of it to be sure that it does not leak on the floor, overflow to the point of spilling out or any other horrific combinations that garbage can provide.
Editing works a LOT like taking out the garbage. There are words and phrases – and sometimes even ideas – that can crowd out the main idea of the content, article or book. Having the courage and consistency to rip these words from the manuscript will leave a project that is crisp and enjoyable for all those that happen to stop by and read.
Garbage to Avoid in Writing
- Passive verbs – show the reader the action or idea. Telling words leave little for the imagination. Action words ignite the mind and let the reader make the words his or her own. (Like every rule, there are exceptions to the passive verbs. Just try to limit the passive words when possible).
Filling words – Speakers know to avoid the uhs, ahs, ums, likes and sort ofs. Nervous speakers or new speakers often fill any quiet with these words. Every writer uses filler words – and for each filler word killed another one tries to rise up and take its place. My first non-fiction had enough “is” in the content to drive a person crazy. This time around “that” was the word taking up space. Each use of a filler word needs to be carefully reviewed and deemed necessary before continuing on.
Cliché expressions – try to find a new, more exciting way to say what you mean. The expression may be just what you need, but it can also be a struggle for your readers. Another important reason to cut the clichés is that not everyone will have experienced (or understand) local or regional sayings.
Excessive descriptions – readers like to know that the story took place in a forest, but you should not describe each and every leaf to get the point across. Limit descriptions and instead let characters interact with the environment to give readers a feel for the location through their eyes.
Pointless rambling – if the idea or though is not needed to advance the story, then cut it out. If you think you have to salvage your words, save them for another day and a different manuscript. If the words must remain, then adjust them to make them relevant to your current manuscript.
Write something. Once you have written your manuscript, the hard work can begin. Editing those words that you crafted with such scare can be painful. You put the words there for a reason in the beginning. You make your work better by choosing to remove the garbage and create something clean.