Purple Prose + writerly books

On My Writerly Bookshelf: Editor Proof Your Writing

It’s not enough to write a page-turning story with characters you can’t help but love. Editors, agents, and readers are eager for writing that does not read like this:

After reading all the words on my contract, I know what my rights are.

They want tight, powerful prose like this:

I read my contract. I know my rights.

And this is where Don McNair’s book, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps To The Clear Prose Publishers And Agents Crave, comes in. He lays out the 21 steps that are guaranteed to tighten your prose. Each step explains the specific issue (e.g. double verbs) and provides lots of examples. You then apply your new knowledge to the exercises with each step and the accompanying excerpt from a book (I skipped the excerpts). The final assignment for each step is to apply it to your first chapter (and only your first chapter). Most of the steps are achieved using the FIND function, so they’re easy to do.

After you’ve studied the book, you can apply each step to your novel. Even if you know most of the information, you’ll be surprised how many “issues” you’ve missed in your manuscript. For example, you might have sentences like this:

I sat down and watched TV.

Unless there is something significant about the act of sitting down, you can simply write:

I watched TV.

It is assumed the character is sitting. This sounds pretty obvious, but you might be surprised how many times you make this mistake without realizing it.

Another example is:

Their squeals of laughter fill the air as they chase each other and play tag.

The last I heard, tag involves being chased. The better way to write it would be:

Their squeals of laughter fill the air as they play tag.

I highly recommend the book to everyone, especially if you tend to write like the before examples. It’s a quick and easy read that makes the editing process more efficient. Also, it includes several chapters on hooking the reader and keeping them hooked.

How do you edit your writing to ensure it isn’t flabby?

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On My Writerly Bookshelf: Editor Proof Your Writing + writerly books