Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jessica Bell – A Quick & Easy Step To Making Your Manuscript Shine

A Quick & Easy Step To Making Your Manuscript Shine

by Jessica Bell

Need to clean up your manuscript? The first step toward making this happen is to remove superfluous words.

I usually write in present tense, but for the sake of this post I’m going to use past tense for my examples as it is more common. These examples will also be very simple for the purpose of showing you what to remove.

So, see the words in bold below? Get rid of them. I call these words “slippery little suckers,” because, to put it bluntly, they slip into first drafts uninvited and they suck.

He was standing by the door. → He stood by the door.

She could hear the dog howl. → The dog howled.

She felt him stroke her cheek. → He stroked her cheek.

She grabbed him by the arm. → She grabbed his arm.

Julie didn’t even know how to do it. → Julie didn’t know how to do it.

The doll that she lost sat on the windowsill. → The doll she lost sat on the windowsill.

They finally arrived at the last minute. → They arrived at the last minute.

All he really wanted was her love. → All he wanted was her love.

The kid climbed up the tree. → The kid climbed the tree.

Kit walked in through the archway. → Kit walked through the archway.

Tom dawdled over to the couch.  → Tom dawdled to the couch.

Gemma played out in the garden. → Gemma played in the garden.

She just needed him to sit still. → She needed him to sit still.

Note: Even if the intent of the above sentence was to show that it was the only thing she needed him to do, the word just still isn’t necessary, because we would already be in the moment, and you would be showing how the situation panning out, and therefore, this fact should already be evident.

Jack was almost at the door. → Jack stood inches from the door.

Jack seemed to be near the door. → Jack stood near the door.

Note: Readers don’t want things to almost or seem to happen. Be direct.

Need more help with your writing? Why don’t you try Jessica’s pocket guide, Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing?


If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.

Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

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Genre – Non-Fiction / Writing Skills Reference

Rating – PG

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