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MM Pollard
August 7th, 2012, 09:58 PM
Become a Better Editor of Your Own Work

Lesson 4

Strategy #4: Use the FIND and REPLACE commands in your word-processing program.
I am very fond of FIND and REPLACE. I’ll show you how to use these commands to find words and phrases best left out of your manuscript, but you can use it to find lots of other mistakes.

Problem #4: -ly adverbs, he/she/they knew, to herself/himself/themselves, and emotion words like sadness or anger in your story.

Finding these mistakes will be easy, but the corrections might not be so easy.

Let’s start with the easy ones first. He/she/they knew and to herself/himself/themselves are easy to find using FIND command. Usually you can leave these words out without any more correction.
Example: She knew he would not like her flashy red bonnet. If you are in her pov, then you don’t need she knew.
Correct: He would not like her flashy red bonnet.

We can leave out to herself/himself/themselves without any more correction.
Example: She shouldn’t have been so haughty with James, she thought to herself.
Unless she can transmit her thoughts to other people, the only person she is thinking to is herself. Delete every to herself, etc., you find in your writing. You may also be able to omit she thought.

Easy to find and not too hard to correct: -ly adverbs.
The FIND command will find every –ly word in your document. Your job is to delete the adverb and change the weak verb to a strong one.
Example: “Sleep well, little one,” Martha said quietly.
Do you know a word that means to speak quietly? Of course you do – whisper.
Correct: “Sleep well, little one,” Martha whispered.

I have posted a list of verbs on a separate page to help you make these corrections.

Now for the hard one – showing emotion, not telling. When you write, “Mary was heartbroken over the death of her favorite canary,” you are telling the reader, not showing her.

Best way to figure out if you are telling and not showing: Does a reader want to wrap Mary in a hug and comfort her in her time of overwhelming sadness?

If the reader doesn’t feel Mary’s heartbreak, you are telling.

Heartbreak is an abstract idea, as are all emotions. To show any emotion, you must show the character in the midst of that emotion.

Right now, at this moment in the story, what is Mary doing and feeling inside her? What words does she use to express herself? (I’m not suggesting you have her say, “I’m brokenhearted.”)

Think about a time when you lost someone close to you, maybe a grandparent or parent. You are at the wake and you see a dear friend you haven’t seen in years. Do you say to that person, “I am so sad Granny died”?

I’ll bet you don’t. You might rush to that dear friend, put your arms around her, and cry.

Your body is also reacting to seeing that friend. Relief – what does relief feel like? Joy – what does joy feel like?

To show what Mary is feeling, you have to be in Mary’s pov. That’s the only way the reader will know that the tension in her shoulders relaxed as she threw her arms around her dear friend Megan.

I have recently found the absolute most incredible source to help you show emotions convincingly. Here’s the link: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/. On this site, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created thesauri of emotions; character traits; setting; weather; colors, textures, and shapes; and symbolism. When you visit, say “thank you” and “MM sent me.”

There is a wealth of information here for a writer. Am I suggesting that you copy their info and paste into your story? NO!!!!

I’m suggesting you buy their book. I have the e-book on writing emotions, and it is the best investment I have made in helping me write. Check it out at the link above or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


Now you try it.
Using the FIND command, search a chapter of your book for -ly adverbs, he/she/they knew, to herself/himself/ themselves, and emotion words like sadness or anger in your story. Post 10 examples of these errors total, not 10 of each, and your revised sentences for these examples. If you are stumped on how to revise a sentence, post that sentence, too.

Note for yourself the number of times FIND finds the errors in your manuscript. You’ll know what you need to watch for as you continue to revise your work.

Any questions?

Happy searching!

MM