I had some spare time last week, so I opened up a text file from a novel I wrote eleven years ago–DREAMERS. I wanted to go through and “clean it up” a little . . . thought it might benefit from a little sprucing.

LOL! This is proving to be a hilarious experience. First, on a whim, I did a search for the word “suddenly,” a word I try to avoid. I found 65 suddenlies. Sixty five! I reviewed each instance and ended up keeping four. (After all, if something happens, it happens, whether it happens “suddenly” or not).

I have encountered myriad examples of things like “She stood to her feet.” Duh. What else is she going to stand to? I have found myself cutting dozens of speaker attributions (unnecessary when there are only two people talking), and bucketfuls of adjectives and adverbs. In fact, I am finding that I don’t write in the same way at all! The tone of this book is a little detached and formal, and that’s okay, because the ancient Egyptians were detached and formal. But ohmigoodness, are there things to cut!

Exclamation points–way too many. “That’s” and passive verbs–they’re going. In fact, I’ve already cut more than 2,000 words, and I’m not even 1/3 of the way through the book. And I haven’t changed a thing, plot-wise.

I’ve also noticed that eleven years ago I tended to begin chapters in the omniscient POV and then move into a character’s head. It’s okay, but it leaves the reader (including me, who can’t remember much about this story) wondering whose head I’m in for a page or two. Time to repair that little problem.

If there’s a moral here, it’s that we learn as we do, and we never stop learning.

Now I’m wondering how I’ll revise my current WIP ten years from now. When I’m finished cutting, there might not be anything left!



  1. Ruth

    Oh I would be very curious to read a revised DREAMERS…that’s been on my favorites list for a long time! I think you’re right though…when I read things I’ve written, I could’ve edited and polished them 50 times but as time goes on there’s always more I see I’d change.

  2. Virginia Smith

    What a terrific post, and timely for me. I was notified by my editor 2 days ago that I need to cut 2,500 words from my manuscript before I turn it in at the end of the week. Aaaccckk! That’s, like, a couple of whole scenes! You’ve given me hope – and a roadmap of words to search for. Thanks!

    Ginny Smith

  3. Angela

    Dreamers hasn’t been re-sold, but I’d like to get it spiffed up just in case. I have a lot of old books I’d love to spiff up . . . 🙂



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