Sunday, November 29, 2015

Done Drafting Your Book? Hooray!! But NOW what??

We're in sunny Tucson, Arizona for American Thanksgiving. So many blessings to send gratitude for!

This week's topic, most apropos for the conclusion of #NaNoWriMo (good work, KAK!) is Finishing Touches: what I do before sending the manuscript in. I bet there will be lots of great advice from the Word Whores this week, though not necessarily in order.

Me, I'm leaping to the final step: the polishing stage. The very last thing I do before sending any stage of a draft to my agent or editor. There's lots of other revision passes before that, which I'm hoping the other amazing writers her will address - it's a huge topic, really - but I'm going to my last pass because I have a concrete list to share.

I keep a running document of my writing tics. These are the little habits that emerge in my writing that need to be removed for the final version. They change a bit over time, which I try to keep up with. I don't bother worrying about them in anything but the draft going out into the greater world, because I'll inevitably introduce them again at the intervening stages. I can't help myself. That's why I call them tics. Every writer has these, no matter how many books they've written. You won't perceive this as a reader, because any writer worth the title will polish these flaws away before the typical reader ever picks up the story.

Here's my list of final polishing steps, as of this fall. It takes me about a full day to do all of this:

1.                   Search for []
2.                   Search for “now”
3.                   Search for “just”
4.                   Search for “much”
5.                   Search for double space
6.                   Search for “like”
7.                   Well
8.                   Search for “back”
9.                   Wordle
10.               Search for “know”
11.               Replace towards with toward
12.               Search for endearment of the day
13.               Search for actions as dialogue tags.
14.               Search for overused dialogue tags.
15.               Search for [overused terms of that story]
Here's the breakdown of what all of that means:

Search for []

As I'm drafting, if I can't think of a word, or I need to name someone or something, I put in [], or [pet name], or [her sister]. Then, later, I search for [, to make sure I got them all. 

Search for “now,” “just,” "know," "like," "well," and "back"

These are my particular crutch words. I'm actually much better than I used to be, with not nearly so many appearances of them as in my earlier books. But, when they do appear, they tend to crop up in batches, with sometimes five in one paragraph. I know. What is my deal?? Nobody knows. But totally fixable. 

Search for double space

One space after a period. All double spaces must die. These mostly creep in during edits, when I accept changes, etc. Mainly a housekeeping move.

Wordle is a terrific tool for analyzing word overuse in a manuscript. The biggest words are the most used. I use this as a final check for any words besides my usual suspects that I might need to read for and eliminate.

Replace towards with toward

I like "towards" so much better, but it's the UK usage and my American publishers insist on "toward." Alas.

Search for endearment of the day

My characters often use pet names or nicknames. I tend to salt the dialogue with them too freely. Nice that, in writing at least, it's easy to "de-spice" the broth and make it a bit more delicately flavored.

Search for actions as dialogue tags and overused dialogue tags.

I get so bored of "said" and "asked," so I play around a lot with other kinds of dialogue tags. Sometimes, though, they get a bit over-the-top. Characters can only grunt and snarl words so many times before you wonder if they had their jaws wired shut. I also have characters laugh and smile words. Like, "You wish I'd had my jaw wired shut," she laughed. Sometimes that works. Mostly, though, it should be, "You wish I'd had my jaw wired shut," she snarled, then laughed in his face.

Search for [overused terms of that story]

This shows up in Wordle, if I don't know what it is already. Like if a character has unusually green eyes, I can point that out a leetle too often, causing my editor to comment, I dunno, something like, "ENOUGH WITH THE APPLE GREEN GLARING, ALREADY."


What about you all - what are the crutch words and tics you have to check for?


  1. even even even even even even even 😎

    1. LOL! I've heard a number of people say they have that one. Fortunately for me, I escaped the "even" curse!

  2. Never heard of wordless before but going to use it....