So you’ve buttoned up the boring backstory, stiffened your story’s structure, and dumped the dragging dialogues and descriptions. In this final installment of my Tighten It Up series, I thought I’d give a few extra tools to polish that manuscript extra shiny before you ship it off for that contest or to that agent!
Tool #1: Find & Replace
Do you have that one word you use too much through pursed lips? Are you a total qualifier fanatic? What about those pesky words that really don’t need to be there? Oh, and let’s not forgot those -ly words that quickly walk up your word count. See what I did there?
Using your find tool is a great way to hunt these puppies down and determine whether or not they need to be there. I once cut over 200 unnecessary that’s from one manuscript, I swear. Here are some examples of words I look for:
so of exactly
quite very only
really just that
Also notice that a lot of those are -ly words, but that’s not the sort I’m referring to above. Sometimes –ly words are okay, but many times it means you need a stronger verb. Quietly said could be whispered. Quickly ran could be sprinted.
Tool #2: Snip the Stragglers
In my Tighten It Up Volume II blog post, I talked about sticking to the structure of your story. Know where you want to be by page 50, page 100, and so forth. If I’m over a couple of pages, the first thing I do is start looking for stragglers. You know what I’m talking about…those little two word lines at the end of a paragraph. I would say that nine times out of ten I can find a way to get rid of those two words, whether it be by using a synonym somewhere or dropping something that really didn’t need to be there.
This little trick comes in handy on contest entries, when you only have 10 pages to get where you want to be. It also helps when you’re submitting the first 50 pages to an agent – just make sure you don’t snip the important stuff!
Tool #3: Formatting
I set up my manuscripts for exactly 25 lines per page, which is pretty close to double spaced, and turn my orphan control off. This may seem like small potatoes, but an extra line per page will get you 2 extra pages every 50. Of course, if there are guidelines stated on a contest or submission website, be sure to follow those.
I’m sure there are a ton of other tricks. Do you have any to share?