“Are you listenin’ to me, son? I’m givin’ ya pearls here.” Al Pacino’s character Lt. Colonel Frank Slade called the tid bits of information he offered Charlie Simms, played by Chris O’Donnell, pearls because the advice he shared evolved from his appreciation of women. Every part of them a gift. (dialogue from Scent of a Woman)
Information is valuable and experience often proves to be the best teacher. Below are a few tips I learned while beefing up my manuscript. I thought I’d share a few of the pearls with you.
It and It Was: Replace the word ‘it’ with a more visual word. Example: It was cold. The corpse’s hand was cold. The corpse’s touch chilled me to the bone. The word “it” injects ambiguity into the sentence. Be specific.
Impossible Simultaneous Actions: Sweeping the floor, he put away the broom. As written, this is impossible. If he’s sweeping the floor, he cannot put away the broom at the same time.
Began To, Nearly, About To, Almost: These are telling words, vague, and sometimes passive. “Blood began to coat his fingers.” could be… “Blood coated his fingers.” “She almost confessed.” could be…. “The stress of her deed ripped at her soul until words pushed their way into her mouth and fought for freedom, but she bit them back.” Eliminating the passive word makes the action more immediate. Follow Nike’s lead. Just Do It.
Vary Sentence Structure: Mix up short and long sentences to keep the reader’s interest. (Stephen King is a master at this.)
Read your work aloud: Hearing your novel read aloud will help you recognize a host of issues that you may miss while reading silently. Awkward phrasing, echoes, and subject/verb agreement pop out during a read aloud. (I work in Scrivener and then move to MSWord. Using the Text to Speech function in MSWord, I allow the computer to read my work to me while I follow along. Very helpful!)
Before I submitted my manuscript, Curiosity Quills offered some of the tips listed above. Agents and Editors want to receive a polished manuscript. So, tighten your work before you press SEND. You’ll be glad you did. Hooah!
Happy writing… and editing.