Writing – Trimming The Fat

Writing tips on writing tightGuest Post by Penny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz)

If you check market resources both for printed and on-line publications [picture books], you’ll find a number whose word limit is below 1,000 words. How do you trim the fat from your manuscript to fit within the tight confines of those word limits?

First, check your manuscript for “weak” modifiers. These are the words which writers hoping to strengthen another word. The two most commonly used words are “very” and “really.” Removing these words from your sentences will give them more impact.

Other weak, modifying words to watch for are: some, just, so, such, even, certainly, definitely, exactly, and that (when overused).

Second, check your manuscript for “wishy-washy” words. You’ll recognize them by their lack of clear definition. Words which fall into this category are: somewhat, sort of, rather, a little, perhaps, seem, and words with “ish” on the end, such as “shortish,” “tallish,” and “brownish.”

In an effort to create realistic dialogue, some writers insert “well” and “oh” into their sentences. Be sure to eliminate these from your manuscript. If a writer were to capture true dialogue, there would be pages and pages of “um,” “uh,” “well,” and “er.” Fortunately, as writers, that’s not our job. We need to create an illusion of reality, not play back word-for-word a “real” conversation. An occasional spattering of the interjections “oh,” “well,” and “um,” is sufficient.

Although adjectives and adverbs have a clear place in our writing, there isn’t an adjective or adverb that can strengthen a weak noun or verb. If you’re looking for variety in your writing, use a thesaurus instead. Go through your manuscript and highlight where you’ve used these modifiers to fatten up and strengthen ineffective words. Go back to the highlighted areas and replace those weak words with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

It’s not easy to trim the fat whether eliminating those yummy chocolate truffles from our diets or cutting out the weak modifiers, “wishy-washy” words, extra “wells,” “ums,” “ers,” and “ohs” from our dialogues, and replacing adjectives and adverbs with strong nouns and verbs. But if we want our human body or our body of work to be fit and desirable, we must trim the fat to achieve tight, firm writing or a lean physique.

While working on my latest release Ghostly Visions, I had a lot of help from my editors in trimming back the “fat.” This middle grade novel is comprised of two books published as one: Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch.

Children's middle grade book

In Ghost for Rent, Wendy Wiles attracts ghosts when her parents separate and she, her brother, and mother move into a haunted house. The story begins in Portland, Oregon and quickly moves to small town, Scappoose, Oregon. Miserable at leaving her friends and beloved Portland behind, Wendy meets her neighbor Jennifer who tells her the house Wendy’s mom rented is haunted. After two of them appear to Wendy, the girls find themselves tracking down the mystery of who the ghosts are and why they “live” in the Wiles’ home.

In Ghost for Lunch, Wendy’s friend, Jennifer, moves away, leaving Wendy sad until new neighbors and their restaurant in St. Helens bring ghosts back into Wendy’s life. She, her brother, and their new friend discover the two cases are connected. Once again, the young sleuths use clues and lots of brainstorming to figure out who is haunting the restaurant.

While on the surface, these two stories appear to be about ghosts and the mystery of solving them, they are also about the importance of family and friends and working together to solve a problem.

Ghostly Visions is available direct from the publisher 4RV Publishing LLC for $15.99 including shipping and handling. It can also be ordered from your local bookstore with the following ISBN numbers: ISBN-10: 0982642326, ISBN-13: 978-0982642320, or through Amazon.

About the Author

Author of Ghostly VisionsPenny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz) has published over 100 articles, 75 stories, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications, and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She is a former editor for MuseItUp Publishing, 4RV Publishing, and Damnation Books. Visit her web site at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com and her writing blog at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/.

4RV Publishing has joined her two middle grade novels (Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch) as Ghostly Visions. She recently released Boo’s Bad Day with 4RV Publishing and has one other children’s picture book under contract with them: Many Colored Coats. She has three romances published by MuseItUp Publishing: Love Delivery, Lady in Waiting, and Mirror, Mirror. Her short story collection, A Past and A Future, is available through Alban Lake Publishing and Smashwords.

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