During the polishing stage, I've likened my manuscript to a rose bush (it's a stretch, I know). I've chopped off the dead, ugly branches, but I've also come dangerously close to snipping off lush flowers. When our brains are on editing overload, how can we decipher the unsightly from the beautiful? Here's what I'm learning:
- Listen to our readers. If our critique partners starred a line, or complimented a word choice, why mess with it?
- Read each sentence in context. If we pluck a sentence out of the blue, it's possible it won't sound quite right. But within the context of a scene, it might work.
- Read nonfiction books on our subject. In this post I outlined how this step helped open a treasure box of useful words.
- Refer to a list of no-no or addictive words. Adverbs should be used sparingly, but a well-placed adverb sometimes makes sense. (Keli Gwyn wrote a great post about 12 Weak Words)
- Step away. When every word, sentence, and paragraph looks like a tumbleweed, it's time to take a break. A walk, a movie, or a few chapters of a good book does wonders for a writer's soul.
We don't want a stark, brittle manuscript that we've whittled down to a colorless stump. We're striving for a bouquet of words, and should be careful not to clip too much.
Are you ever in danger of over editing? Or is there no such thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts.