If you are looking for ways to self-edit prior to sending your work to a paid editor, you may find this series helpful. Look for the tag targeted editing in the sidebar.
We’ve already begun editing and have a good handle on a few major issues in writing with the first part of this series. We’ll continue today with some other search and destroy words and phrases that can kill sentences or drag readers out of a story.
Now that you’ve targeted and obliterated most of your “to be” verbs, you can start getting down to the nitpicky things that will clarify your story. Cull useless words, rework each sentence so it is clear and concise, yet maintains the meaning you want to convey. My only quibble with this is Regency novels; they tended toward the verbose, so it feels strange to read novels of that period that don’t take the long way around a paragraph.
Then/and then: these denote a series of events. If you use them you have slipped into the passive voice. HOWEVER, (I don’t recommend doing it frequently) it can speed up a portion that might be slow if you describe each step, but knowing what is happening is necessary. The most important thing (in my opinion, which is all that matters on my blog) is pace. You need to decide if that series is integral or a darling. Cut out what you can of then/and then.
In/into/ in to/inside: These aren’t passive and they are often used to add detail, but that is the issue, they are used OFTEN. Check your document and see if portions of extraneous verbiage can be cut. For example. He went into the house to get a book. Well, I’d guess the majority of people don’t store their books outside. You could cut that to: He got a book and returned to the porch. (or whatever works for you). Books are active, that is why these little guys get insidious. We want action and detail so they lurk in an inordinate number of paragraphs.
Very/really/just/only: Each of these is an indication that a stronger verb is needed just has a few different definitions so be wary of how you are using it, only can also be tricky. For example “He was only trying to help.” Is fairly weak. It means the same as “He was trying to help.” If you are truly conveying his purpose was ONLY to help, he had no other motive. You need a stronger verb. “His sole purpose was to help.” Or “The reason he came was to help.” All are simple sentences, since writing examples is a sticky mess that oversimplifies things.
This should take you another few days to go through. Enjoy editing, you are turning your draft into a novel people will love reading.