When critiquing the works of others (and myself) at workshops and such, I’ve found that many early drafts rely heavily on telling rather than showing, weak descriptors, wordy-bogged down sentences, and weak nouns/verbs. After my first draft, I go through my entire work using FIND. I look for certain words that indicate sloppy writing and then I fix the sentence.
I have a Master Revision Checklist I use for this. Some of it came from other workshops and authors, some of it myself. I don’t claim ownership of this entire list, so feel free to use and share as you will.
* Check title capitalizations
* When you can, eliminate passive voice (search for “There was” and “There were” and “was being” and “were being” and other TO BE verbs)
* Tune Dialogue Attributions or tags– use SAID and ASKED only. Or things dealing with volume (shouted, whispered, etc.)
* Fix superfluous “that” usage. If the sentences makes sense without the that, take it out.
* Removing confusing -ing constructions
WORD CHOICE ISSUES–Search for:
* She smelled
* She looked
* She saw
* She felt
* She heard
* She knew
* Began to / Started to
* Whether or not / Whether (if superfluous, kill it)
* The fact that (always remove)
* Thing (be more descriptive)
* Not (try to speak affirmatively. “He forgot” vs. “He didn’t remember”)
* Once more / again / once again (if they don’t add something or clarify, ditch)
* Around (redundant. How else will you spin?)
QUALIFIERS (Weak Adjective/Noun)–Search for:
a bit, a good deal, a great deal, enough, even, fairly, indeed, instead, just, kind of, sort of, least, less, a little, a whole lot, a lot, more, most, pretty, quite, rather, really, somewhat, still, too, very
Not always necessary. Ask yourself if it can be reworded better.
COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS–Search for:
* Among (more than 2 things/people involved) vs. Between (exactly 2)
* Compared with (point out differences) vs. compared to (similarities)
* Due to (don’t use if trying to say because of)
* Each and every (used in dialogue only)
* Enormity (shouldn’t be used for size.)
* However (however, large it is vs. however large it is,)
* Inside of (if location, drop of. Inside of = in less than, as in “inside of one hour”)
* Nauseous = sickening to contemplate vs. Nauseated = sick to the stomach
* Nice = boring
* Nor, should come near a neither
* One of the most = weak. eliminate
* Possess (pretentious. can use some)
* shall (implies belief in future event) vs. will (determination / consent)
* That (restrictive clause, e.g. necessary) vs. which (unrestrictive clause, e.g. unnecessary”
If the point of the passage is to describe the process of sensing, then I filter. If, however, what is being sensed is more important than the process of sensing it, then I eliminate the filters.
* See, sees, saw, seeing, seen;
* hear, hears, heard, hearing;
* feel, feels, felt, feeling;
* look, looks, looked, looking
* know, knows, knew, knowing
* think, thinks, thought, thinking
* wonder, wonders, wondered, wondering
* realize, realizes, realized, realizing
* watch, watches, watched, watching
* notice, notices, noticed, noticing
* seem, seems, seemed, seeming
* decide, decides, decided, deciding
* sound, sounds, sounded, sounding
Something of something— search for “…of the….” (Change door of the car to car door and neck of the beast to beast’s neck)
WEAK MOVEMENT VERBS:
They aren’t always bad but double check that there isn’t a better way to say it. Search for:
* turned, reached, looked, turned to face (can just be faced).
This should make your draft much cleaner.