Line Edits and Filter Words
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Now that you've completed your developmental edits, it's time to hunker down and do line edits. I'll walk you through my process and what words and phrases to look for.
Line edits are going to tighten your sentences and immerse the reader. You'll be correcting your descriptions, the 5 senses, show don't tell, active vs passive voice, choosing stronger words and phrases (replacing adverbs), etc. I know it's a lot, so let's break it down.
Before I get to lists, I want to share that in Word, the ctrl F button is your best friend. It saves you having to read line by line and remember all the words you're supposed to be deleting or changing. With the list, I go down one by one and cross off the word once I've searched and corrected it. After I've done what I can in my word doc, I print out the draft and go over it as a paper copy. Mixing up the medium works and you'll find more edits to make.
There are times when you'll need to use these words, use your best judgement. These words will also be found in dialogue based on your character's voice and personality. Your writing voice might naturally include these words too. Do you, but know the rules. And know that some are meant to be broken ;)
The list is made of one tense, but counts for all tenses. And this list does not have everything. Have fun with your line edits! It's all about immersion! Your CPs and betas will (hopefully) pick up on words and phrases you've missed.
Is/Was (un)able to
Double words like 'stood up' & 'sat down'- you can just say, stood or sat.
There is/was- say what the object is
It is/was- say what the object is
^^When you read through where you've put these words, it's amazing how just deleting the word tightens the sentence and makes it more immersive and impactful. If you're stuck, try restructuring your sentence. Fixing filter words will help immerse your reader and convert your telling to showing.
These are the bane of my writing. Adverbs are most words that end in -ly. You can either ctrl F 'ly' or when you do a read through, try to catch the adverbs. To correct adverbs, use stronger words. I recommend the Thesaurus books by Angela Ackerman or the synonym tool in your Word doc.
Passive voice happens when the sentence needs to be flipped. It's a simple fix. Who or what performs the action, needs to be upfront where the subject is. Words like 'was' or 'was being' are dead giveaways.
Ex: The dog was being walked by the girl. OR The dog was walked by the girl.
The girl is the subject and needs to go up front: The girl walked the dog. This deletes 'was' which is one of your words to edit.
Everyone swears by the zombie method. You add 'by zombies' to the end of the sentence, and if it makes sense, it's passive. I don't love this method, because in the above example it'd be: The dog was walked by the girl by zombies...it doesn't translate well.
This is when the zombie method makes sense: The gift was given to the boy (by zombies). Bam! Zombie method.
The way we naturally talk and write are filled with filter words. This is a skill you need to hone and grow and that happens with each book you write, and each book you self-edit. It gets easier I promise!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments or words to add.
After you complete your Developmental and Line Edits it's time to find Critique Partners. Click here to learn where to find them and what to do with their feedback.
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