Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing Your Fiction

Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

There are a lot of hurdles to writing great fiction, which is why it’s always important to keep reading and writing. We only get better by DOING. Today we’re going to talk about some self-editing tips to help you clean up your book before you hire an editor.

When I worked as an editor, I found it frustrating when I couldn’t even GET to the story because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.

There are many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing blunders you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes

I have never met an adverb, simile, or metaphor I didn’t LOVE. I totally dig description, but it can present problems.

First of all, adverbs are not ALL evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If someone shouts loudly? How else are they going to shout? Whispering quietly? Really? O_o Ah, but if they whisper seductively? The adverb seductively gives us a quality to the whisper that isn’t already implied by the verb.

Check your work for adverbs and kill the redundant ones. Kill them. Dead.

Metaphors and similes are awesome, but need to be used sparingly. Yes, in school, our teachers or professors didn’t ding us for using 42 metaphors in 5 pages, but their job was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor or simile, NOT prepare us for commercial publication as professional novelists.

When we use too much of this verbal glitter, we can create what’s called “purple prose.” This glitter, while sparkly, can pull the reader out of the story or even confuse the reader. A while back, I edited a winner’s 20 page entry. The story began on a whitewater river and the rafters were careening toward a “rock coffee table.”


Oh, the boulder is squarish shaped!

Thing is, the metaphor made me stop to figure out what image the author was trying to create. If the rafters had merely been careening toward a giant flat rock? Not as pretty but I could have remained in the story without trying to figure out how the hell furniture ended up in the river.

I’ve read some great books, but as an editor, I might have cut some of the metaphors. Why? Because the author might have a metaphor SO GOOD I wanted to highlight it and commit it to memory…but it was bogged down by the other four metaphors and three similes on the same page. The other metaphors/similes added nothing…unless one counts distraction.

Go through your pages and highlight metaphors and similes. Pick THE BEST and CUT THE REST. Look for confusing metaphors, like rock furniture in the middle of a river.

#2 Stage Direction

She reached out her arm to open the door.

Okay, unless she has mind powers and telekinesis, do we need the direction?

He turned to go down the next street.

He picked up the oars and pulled a few more strokes, eager to get to his favorite fishing spot.

We “get” he’d have to pick up the oars to row his boat, or that is a seriously cool trick.

Be active. Characters can “brush hair out of their face” “open doors” and even slap people without you telling us they reached out an arm or hand to do this. We are smart. Really.

#3 Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts…

Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.

 His head followed her across the room.

All I have to say is… “Ouch.”

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow? The carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.

#4 Too much Physiology…

Her heart pounded. Her heart hammered. Her pulse beat in her head. Her breath came in choking sobs.

After a page of this? I need a nap. After two pages? I need a drink. We can only take so much heart pounding, thrumming, hammering before we just get worn out.  That and I read a lot of entries where the character has her heart hammering so much, I am waiting for her to slip into cardiac arrest at any moment. Ease up on the physiology. Less is often more.

Get a copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus to help you vary physiology. Also, if someone’s heart is pounding, that’s okay. We assume until they are out of danger it’s still pounding. No need to remind us.


#5 Backing Into the Sentence/Passive Voice

In an effort to break up and vary sentence structure, many writers will craft sentences like this:

With the months of stress pressing down on her head, Jessie started ironing the restaurant tablecloths with a fury.

Problem? Passive action. When we use the word “down” then “on” is redundant. Either she is ironing or not ironing. “Started” is overused and makes sloppy writing. That actually goes back to the whole “stage direction” thing.


Jessie ironed the restaurant tablecloths with a fury, months of stress pressing on her shoulders.

The door was kicked in by the police.

Police kicked in the door.

If you go through your pages and see WAS clusters? That’s a HUGE hint that passive voice has infected your story.

#6 Almost ALWAYS Use “Said” as a Tag

“You are such a jerk,” she laughed.

A character can’t “laugh” something. They can’t “snip” “spit” “snarl” “grouse” words. They can SAY and ever so often they can ASK. Said becomes white noise. Readers don’t “see” it. It keeps them in the story and cooking along. If we want to add things like laughing, griping, complaining, then fine. It just shouldn’t be the tag.

“You are such a jerk.” She laughed as she flicked brownie batter onto Fabio’s white shirt.

There you go, SIX easy tips for self-editing. We all make these mistakes and that’s why God invented revision (that and to punish the unfaithful). If you can get rid of these common offenders on your own, then good editors can focus on the deeper aspects of your fiction.

Have you had to ruthlessly slay your favorite metaphors? Are you a recovering adverb-addict? What are some other self-editing guidelines you use to keep your prose clean and effective?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).


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  1. #1 by stephaniehurt on August 21, 2013 - 11:37 am

    I enjoyed your analytical approach to editing. As a writer I’m guilty of all six. I’m almost to the editing phase of my 8th book and this gave me some food for thought. Thanks.

  2. #2 by Lisa Godfrees on August 21, 2013 - 11:38 am

    I got your post via email and immediately clicked to read it (I”m editing right now), saw that picture and actually, physically laughed out loud. (like the adverbs?) Anyway, great shot!

    The thing that stands out to me are when people use too many eyebrow movements. I’m so sensitive to them that now I pick them out in all the books I read, even if they’re only mentioned once.

    Thanks, this post was uber helpful. 🙂

  3. #3 by Jack Flacco on August 21, 2013 - 11:38 am

    Great post. I laughed throughout, especially the physiology portion. I beta’d books with all sorts of stuff going on with the human anatomy. And they were YA. Made me want to pass out by the time I turned to page 2!

  4. #4 by Cat Mann on August 21, 2013 - 11:38 am

    This is fantastic advice as always. I will be printing and taping to my desk top. Cheers!

  5. #5 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on August 21, 2013 - 11:41 am

    What an excellent post. Some people (1) in my writers’ groups insist that we remove ALL adverbs. You have shown when they are helpful and when they are not. (2) My favorite example of a dangling modifier is “Running down the hall, his eyes searched for the intruder.” Painful, to say the least.

  6. #7 by Shimoni on August 21, 2013 - 11:43 am

    Reblogged this on Imaginings.

  7. #8 by eranamage on August 21, 2013 - 11:43 am

    Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    Useful advice. Self editing can be a challenge, it is easy to see what should be there not what IS there and many writers (including myself) don’t understand all the rules, or if we do we choose to break them.

  8. #9 by eranamage on August 21, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Thanks, useful info. Self editing can be tricky as the writer sometimes sees what they think is there not what is there.

  9. #10 by Rebecca Enzor on August 21, 2013 - 11:47 am

    My weak spot is Stage Direction. I had to do a pass through my last WIP just looking for the words “turned” and “reached” >.<

  10. #11 by KathyMcIntosh on August 21, 2013 - 11:51 am

    Excellent points. I shared on FB. You teach while entertaining, as always.

  11. #12 by Karen Bennett-Johnson on August 21, 2013 - 11:59 am

    Useful information. I am a new author and will try to use these tips in my writing. Thank You

  12. #13 by D.R. Slaten on August 21, 2013 - 12:00 pm

    Reblogged this on D. Lee Reed and commented:
    Some awesome tips and info.

  13. #14 by Lew Weinstein on August 21, 2013 - 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the excellent reminders … things we know but which seem to pop up anyway. Another useful editing tool is to eliminate “that” as often as possible. Search and destroy!

  14. #15 by Frank on August 21, 2013 - 12:03 pm

    Maybe it’s because I’m British, but I have a much bigger problem with gazes following people around than I do with eyes following people around. There’s something emotionally passive about gazing. ‘She gazed at the gloriously coloured fields, her eyes following the butterflies fluttering about the cornflowers.’

  15. #16 by howanxious on August 21, 2013 - 12:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing your opinion on the matter of self-editing. I know I have to work on #6; sometimes I do make the mistake you discussed.

    I have certain questions though:
    Regarding the passive voice, is it wrong to use it to a certain extent? The sentence comes out to be precise in case of passive voice. That is something I believe. Please enlighten me on that.

    And in case of number #2, it is sometimes author’s desire to prolong a moment. That is when he goes for some thing like ‘he looked up to gaze at the sky, at the strike of lightning which illuminated the dark visage of clouds’. What do you think? Something like this is not meant to educate the reader, but just to enrich a movement or an event with something extra.

  16. #17 by galealbright on August 21, 2013 - 12:11 pm

    A good blog and a funny one. I do a lot of revision and humor helps!

  17. #18 by J. E. Fishman on August 21, 2013 - 12:12 pm

    Of course, the trick is to know when to cut it…and know when to leave it. Which means you have to understand why you’re doing it. This provides that clarity. Well done, Kristen!

  18. #19 by Shea Ford on August 21, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    I’m in the middle of editing now. In my first book it was purple prose. This one is passive voice. Thanks for all the reminders! It totally helps!

    I have the Emotional Thesaurus. It’s an awesome resource for any fiction writer! 😀

  19. #20 by Les Edgerton on August 21, 2013 - 12:24 pm

    Another good ‘un, Kristen! Here are two things that my students will tell you make me start throwing up in my mouth…

    1. A character who has “a single tear coursing down her cheek.” I throw things when I see this. Does this mean the event that elicited this response was only half-sad? Does it mean the other tear duct is clogged up?

    2. I wonder where she is, she thought to herself. Unless this is a sci-fi story where people can read each others’ minds, in a normal world, who else would one think to besides themselves? This is one where I not only throw things but throw up in my mouth… and a single tear courses down my cheek…

    Blue skies,

  20. #21 by Barbara Lazar on August 21, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Yes. Pruning our own work is hard. That’s where suggestions like these, a list, are helpful. We can practice until it becomes second nature. Also helpful is a critique group. I am able to practice on others’ “stuff” and my own. Even better.

  21. #22 by Bob Evenhouse on August 21, 2013 - 12:27 pm

    Thanks for the laughs. Never heard of the Emotional Thesaurus, I’ll check it out.

    Question regarding the said tag. Do you cringe when you hear – “You are such a jerk”, she said with a laugh. ?

  22. #23 by Damian Trasler on August 21, 2013 - 12:27 pm

    I love that you posted this the same day I make a post about how things shouldn’t BE easy for writers. These are six tips that are easy to read, easy to understand and use, but may involve some hard work to get right. Which I think is how it should be! The right tips and advice get you to focus your hard work on the right aspects of the job…..

  23. #24 by Leonardo Nepomuceno on August 21, 2013 - 12:35 pm

  24. #25 by billgncs on August 21, 2013 - 12:35 pm

    excellent advice – hopefully I can use this to avoid redundant duplicates and extraneous extras.

    Your editing posts are a great help.

  25. #26 by Helen Landalf on August 21, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    These are all really good suggestions. Another thing I always look for is repetition, both of words and phrases and of information/ideas.

  26. #27 by Jessica Lancaster on August 21, 2013 - 12:45 pm

    I’m a beginner and found this very helpful! I’m an aspiring children’s book writer and have read several books over this past year that included some of these tips. Already have the Emotion Thesaurus too. Looks like I’m on the right track! Thanks!

  27. #28 by cynthiagrstacey on August 21, 2013 - 1:05 pm

    OMG Kristen I can’t stop laughing! I love that the eyes followed her across the room getting dust bunnies etc. You are too much. I love how you simplify everything. Thanks a bunch this is awesome.

  28. #29 by cynthiagrstacey on August 21, 2013 - 1:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome post for writers by Author Kristen Lamb.

  29. #30 by Emmy on August 21, 2013 - 1:19 pm

    #3 had me spraying my iPad with coffee. Then I hurriedly checked my ms for missing bodyparts.

  30. #31 by Athena Brady on August 21, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    Great post Kristen, no coffee tables here.

  31. #32 by Silvia A on August 21, 2013 - 1:53 pm

    Amazing, simple, useful. Self editing is difficult, but using common sense is a rule.

  32. #33 by Cynthia T. Toney on August 21, 2013 - 2:00 pm

    But didn’t Elaine on “Seinfeld” say, “People love interesting writing”? :-))) Thanks for showing the difference between interesting and distracting. This is another of your informative and entertaining posts that I must share with friends and other writers on my Facebook author page.

  33. #34 by Diana Beebe on August 21, 2013 - 2:02 pm

    Stage direction is my nemesis. I will be more aware of it now though.

    I keep the Emotion Thesaurus nearby when I’m writing so I don’t use the same old words. Love it!

    • #35 by Diana Beebe on August 21, 2013 - 2:03 pm

      And, woohoo, I can post comments on your blog again!

  34. #36 by Gry Ranfelt on August 21, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    While trying to show and not tell I simply ended up doing stuff like no. 2. They definitely need to be cut out.
    I disagree that one can’t laugh words, though.

  35. #37 by Janet K Brown (@janetkbrowntx) on August 21, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    Good examples.

  36. #38 by Elke Feuer on August 21, 2013 - 2:14 pm

    LOL! I’ve been guilty of these on more than one occassion. Thankful I’ve learned to avoid them when I’m writing or fix them when editing.

  37. #39 by Sophie Kersey on August 21, 2013 - 2:17 pm

    Great post – I lap up your writer’s tips, I am editing my psychological thriller at the moment and fear I may be guilty of some of your physiology issues. When I imagine physical reactions to stress, anxiety, fear and shock, I am much too quick to place them in my heroine’s chest. She must be a serious heart attack risk. I’m going to check out that Emotional Thesaurus you mentioned!
    There’s also a fantastic book about trauma that I found hugely helpful for thriller writing – I recommend it in my May 6th post Any of your followers wanting to get the emotional reactions right might find it useful. Thanks again.

  38. #40 by M E McMahon on August 21, 2013 - 2:37 pm

    Reblogged this on A Dream Come True and commented:
    Really good tips for those suffering the editing process.

  39. #41 by Kathy Mirkin on August 21, 2013 - 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the revision tips!

  40. #42 by birgitte necessary on August 21, 2013 - 3:33 pm

    Such great advice that I had to share a link to this page on my Facebook page. Even die hard editors like me, need to remember these tips. Thanks!

  41. #43 by Vivienne McNeny on August 21, 2013 - 3:48 pm

    Ok so where have I been? I am so glad I’ve found you and although I wished it had been sooner, the right time is always NOW!! Think of all the catch up reading I get to do and how many hilarious stories hubs JUST HAS to hear through my giggles! I won’t be going far so watch out for me!!

  42. #44 by Katie Cross on August 21, 2013 - 3:57 pm

    You had my heart at the beginning, but number three won my soul. I just finished the book of a self published author where she drove me CRAZY with direction. At least twice a paragraph. She walked me through everything, and it was miserable. I set the book down in disgust at least 18 times, and my husband was relieved when I finished because I kept complaining.

  43. #45 by authorphilpartington on August 21, 2013 - 4:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Phil Partington, author page and commented:
    Kristen’s always good for great writing advice. While I’ve seen some of her ‘rules’ broken be several top-selling, prolific authors (and on many occasions), it doesn’t mean it isn’t good food for thought…and as always, well articulated.

  44. #46 by Bonny Becker on August 21, 2013 - 4:37 pm

    Nice and easy tips. I especially liked the one about letting go of the good to let the great shine through. I’m posting a link to this on my Facebook page:

  45. #47 by Bonny Becker on August 21, 2013 - 4:40 pm

    Oops. I’ve sent you to the wrong Bonny Becker. I am apparently one of 76 other Bonny Beckers.

  46. #48 by Laxmi on August 21, 2013 - 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the excellent tips which I find useful for editing my own manuscript.

  47. #49 by Wendy Jones on August 21, 2013 - 4:56 pm

    Excellent advice. You also win the prize for a blog on editing that made me laugh. This has been really helpful and entertaining. Thank you

  48. #50 by pamelacreese on August 21, 2013 - 5:01 pm

    Excited about WANACon. And your common sense editing tips are a welcome reminder, as always well stated and clear. Thank you.
    The only one that drives me crazy is the supposedly ‘invisible’ said. I hear it often. Yet it is so far from invisible to me. It rips me out of a story to see line after line of he said/she said. Particularly when action used correctly does the same job without the annoying repetition.

  49. #51 by ElleLainey on August 21, 2013 - 5:13 pm

  50. #52 by Kristin Wallace on August 21, 2013 - 5:21 pm

    Oh, I want to tape this to my desk!

  51. #53 by Dyane on August 21, 2013 - 5:39 pm

    Great stuff, and mercifully each point is something the average writer can do. 🙂 Thx!

  52. #54 by Julie Ann Sherwood on August 21, 2013 - 5:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I am going to share it with a few authors I edit for so that my job will hopefully not be bogged down by these things 😉

  53. #55 by Joel on August 21, 2013 - 5:57 pm

    The headless follower…whew, that’s a picture lodged in my noggin’ and I have you to thank for it! Great post, Kristen. And a shout out for the Emotion Thesaurus. I could start to reach out my hand, pick it up and show you that it’s right beside my computer but then I was just realizing how passive that would have been, so I shouted really loud at my monitor instead. Nothing happened. 😉

  54. #56 by Megan Keith on August 21, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    Thanks for your humorous insight!

  55. #57 by Aria Glazki on August 21, 2013 - 7:50 pm

    What a fantastic post! I like your succinct distinction between useful and redundant adverbs especially, rather than the more frequent blanket statement that “all adverbs are bad.” I worry in my writing that I don’t use phrases like “Her eyes flew…” – I use the word “gaze” way too frequently – but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who takes statements like that literally!

  56. #58 by Inion N. Mathair on August 21, 2013 - 9:53 pm

    Brilliant tips, Kristen. Mathair and I have often wondered why writers, (us included) are so OVERLY descriptive (LOL). Our first instinct was that it’s the inherent need of the author to make sure that the reader sees exactly what is in our heads, but that security blanket… *scapegoat* has been tossed to the side and now we’ve embraced the fact that less is more. 🙂

  57. #59 by Leann on August 21, 2013 - 10:17 pm

    Very useful! I’m going to share this on twitter and with my writing group! One of my pet peeves is “started” and “began.” Unless it’s the start of something that is important or needs emphasized, then it’s not needed! Also, I love the image of eyes fuzzy with dust bunnies!

  58. #60 by Alison Doherty on August 22, 2013 - 12:05 am

    Perfect timing. Love your comment on stage directions.

  59. #61 by Gitanjali Singh Cherian on August 22, 2013 - 12:28 am

    This is a really helpful post. Thank you! I laughed out loud when I read #3! 🙂

  60. #62 by Kari Neumeyer on August 22, 2013 - 12:31 am

    Great tips. Thank you for standing up for adverbs. I hate it when people advise editing out every single one.

  61. #63 by Helen on August 22, 2013 - 12:43 am

    All of these are excellent points. I actually laughed out loud at number 3! Thank you, a real help for a new author.

  62. #64 by Douglas E Ryan on August 22, 2013 - 4:58 am

  63. #65 by Sunni on August 22, 2013 - 5:42 am

    Straightforward and so helpful! I love the eyeballs and dust bunnies!

  64. #66 by James Stubbs on August 22, 2013 - 6:08 am

    Bless you. I instinctive know this but am guilty of them all the same when the words start flowing.

  65. #67 by Alen B Curtiss on August 22, 2013 - 6:19 am

    Reblogged this on Alen B Curtiss and commented:
    Some excellent advice here. I for one now that I’m guilty of each point. Bad habits are seriously hard to get out of your system!

  66. #68 by Tom Threadgill (@Tom_Threadgill) on August 22, 2013 - 8:29 am

    I was editing my WIP and realized I had written myself into a corner. “His eyes darted across the parking lot.” When my antagonist’s body parts started fleeing his body, I knew I was in trouble. 🙂

  67. #69 by Carol Bodensteiner on August 22, 2013 - 8:38 am

    Timely post, Kristin. I’m in the process of purging my manuscript of all these blunders (I hope), before sending it to an editor. A simile I wrote popped to mind as I read this. I will cut it. Thanks.

  68. #70 by Maryellen Knowles on August 22, 2013 - 9:07 am

    Mary, I learn so much from your entries. Thank you for sharing your expertise so freely.

  69. #71 by Sarah on August 22, 2013 - 10:15 am

    I’m cutting stage directions and “glitter” right now. Thanks for the timely post!

  70. #72 by Dennis Langley on August 22, 2013 - 10:40 am

    Great advice as usual. I liked your moderation vs elimination theory.

  71. #73 by jennifer Windram on August 22, 2013 - 11:07 am

    I think I’m doing okay on the adverb usage. My two issues are stage direction and maybe some wayward body parts.

    Occasional use of the passive voice doesn’t bother me. When it’s used once a paragraph it drives me nuts. I recently read a book where every other sentence was passive voice (I might be exaggerating). I think this was done to change things up since it was written in first person. It really just became distracting.

  72. #74 by Cheryl Ammeter on August 22, 2013 - 11:36 am

    The right words at the “write” time. It’s frightening how easily we slip into those bad habits of writing. After your post got me all fired up, I went out and slayed 83 exclamation points in my current manuscript!!!!!!!!!! (dang, they’re like rabbits)

  73. #75 by Naomi Baltuck on August 22, 2013 - 11:55 am

    Sometimes I go overboard editing out too much–must find that balance.

  74. #76 by mathildawheeler on August 22, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    So are editors really distracted by these writing issues? I agree with them entirely (and especially enjoyed the coffee table comparison in the middle of the river–I can so easily see doing that!), but these are more fine-tuning strategies. Wouldn’t a book doctor be able to look at the story and character development in a mss and be able to offer very important advice BEFORE a writer takes the time to make the prose sing?

    • #77 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 22, 2013 - 1:16 pm

      Yes, that is sort of what I offer in my upgraded antagonist class. I have a session one-on-one with the writer to make sure there is a core story problem and the structure is sound. That’s the toughest part. Hiring a book doctor after we’ve written something with no good skeleton is throwing good money after bad. Content and line-editors can be a great investment if the story, itself, is sound.

  75. #78 by wickedgreensmoothies on August 22, 2013 - 1:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Cynthia Luhrs and commented:
    Calling all writers – great post on self-editing your work of fiction

  76. #79 by writeopiaguide on August 22, 2013 - 3:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Journey to Writeopia and commented:
    Implementing all of these in my next editing session!

  77. #80 by S. D. Keeling on August 22, 2013 - 5:33 pm

    Reblogged this on S. D. Keeling and commented:
    Timely advice as I edit my manuscript!

  78. #81 by S. D. Keeling on August 22, 2013 - 5:34 pm

    Reblogged at

  79. #82 by S. D. Keeling on August 22, 2013 - 5:36 pm

    I have way too many wide eyes and burning faces. Going through and editing my physiological reactions is on my editing to-do list. Now you’ve given me a couple other things to add to that list!

    • #83 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 22, 2013 - 8:33 pm

      We ALL do it. In revisions I see the same stuff and I’ve been writing for ages. I am all like, “REALLY? I should totally know better.” I do it less. That’s where reading and practice helps.

  80. #84 by Mencara Mitchell on August 23, 2013 - 8:24 am

    Great post! I recently read a guide to tightening up writing. It specifically addressed adverbs and cliches and the majority of the book was nothing but examples of text using all adverbs, then the same text written as cliches, followed by “improved” text of the same work, written exclusively in simile and metaphor. I found the book less than helpful. Not every character action and emotion needs a dazzling display of worthsmithery. The very idea that you would use that much imagery is as tedious as watching a lazy sloth pick it’s toenails on a hot summer day.

  81. #85 by Richard Garrison on August 23, 2013 - 9:40 am

    I really enjoyed this. Great advice.

  82. #86 by David Erickson on August 23, 2013 - 11:02 am

    This was fun to read. Love your examples!

  83. #87 by William Vaughn on August 23, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    Kirsten, I’m all signed up to get your daily feed. Your entries are very helpful. I posted a link to the blog on my own blog Thanks.

  84. #89 by Sara B. Gauldin on August 23, 2013 - 7:29 pm

    Your tips on the use of “said” and “asked” caught my eye. I am guilty of that transgression! I am currently in the clean up phase of my second book, The Corporeal Pull. The more genuine editing information I can use, the closer I can get to producing a book that is “worthy” or a reader’s time and energy. Thanks!

  85. #90 by bethteliho on August 23, 2013 - 7:41 pm

    Thank you for this article! I’m about to go through my edit/revision process having just received beta reader feedback on my novel. These tips will help get my work in tip-top shape!

  86. #91 by funoften on August 25, 2013 - 5:19 am

    great read

  87. #92 by Gale Albright on August 26, 2013 - 11:15 am

    Reblogged this on Visions and Revisions.

  88. #93 by Celeste on August 27, 2013 - 10:19 am

    Reblogged on my blog, This was extremely helpful. Thank you. You put a lot of things in perspective for me. I wish I would’ve read this BEFORE beginning my millionth round of edits the other day. Time for one million and one!

  89. #94 by TheGirl on August 27, 2013 - 6:17 pm

    I am a recovering adverb addict, I made the switch on my own, and used Microsoft word tracker to find all the really, so, just, actually and slash their usage.

  90. #95 by Donna Cowden on August 27, 2013 - 10:29 pm

    Loved this article. I’m checking through my short story right now to see if I am an offender!

  91. #96 by Donna Cowden on August 27, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    Reblogged this on Magpie's Paper Tales and commented:
    Great tips for writers for improving your work…from Kristen Lamb.

  92. #97 by Daphne Shadows on August 28, 2013 - 12:02 am

    I’m critiquing right now – so THANK YOU! You rock. Oh, and your timing is good too. 😉

  93. #98 by edit my paper on September 17, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    We do not differentiate between clients and we treat every single “edit my paper” order individually and with the same professionalism.

  94. #99 by raheel on September 18, 2013 - 10:57 am

    Editor World is a one-stop solution to all your proofreading and“paper editing” needs

  95. #100 by Sarah M Blood on September 25, 2013 - 10:42 pm

    I love the specificity of this post, and the examples are wonderful.

    I am currently revising a novel, and I’m following Sol Stein’s Triage Method (1) Fix character issues (2) Remove any scenes that weaken the manuscript (3) Ensure all actions are properly motivated (4) Ensure the first page draws the reader in (5) General Revision.

    I will make sure to reference this post again when I get to general revisions!

  96. #101 by jaredbernard on October 16, 2013 - 3:56 pm

    Hey, thanks for the terrific tips! You’ve inspired me to burrow through my manuscript again.

  97. #102 by nashedron on October 23, 2013 - 6:41 pm

    This is a very handy list, and entertainingly written too. I especially loved the “Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts” section. I edit fiction now, but I used to edit a lot of business documents and reports, some of which had to give a narrative account of people’s activities, and my favorite painful movement (which came up repeatedly) was “he walked into the door.” Ouch.

    I will definitely be picking up a copy of the emotion thesaurus too–that sounds both useful and fun.

    I recently wrote a series of three (soon to be four) fairly detailed articles that deal not so much with what to edit–as you’ve done here–but with specific techniques and approaches that can improve your self-editing. For anyone who’s interested, the first one (and links to the others) can be found here:

    Nas Hedron

  98. #103 by Alan on October 30, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    Thanks that was very helpful as i have almost finished my novel (one chapter to go)

  99. #104 by charlottewoolnough96 on November 1, 2013 - 3:17 pm

    I loved this article, it really helped me and made so much sense.

  100. #105 by Daniel Ionson on December 11, 2013 - 10:46 pm

    Excellent. Thank you.

  101. #106 by Rodger Okoye Ani on December 29, 2013 - 4:45 pm

    Excellent writeup, I’m not much of a writer, but I feel this can help me a great deal, in my current work.

  102. #107 by Elizabeth Herrera on January 23, 2014 - 10:54 am

    You made me laugh and realize that I need to take a second look for that infamous word “was” before sending out to a copy editor!

  103. #108 by John Lowell on February 5, 2014 - 7:54 pm

    I usually tell people when I critique their work to avoid any explanation that can be avoided. This cuts out a lot of the stage direction.

  104. #109 by Danielle on February 6, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    It seems I don’t have a rough draft, only sixty five thousand words of grammatical offense. : ( Thanks for the enlightenment!

  105. #110 by Chrystina Trulove-Reyes on February 16, 2014 - 4:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and commented:
    Edit your work with these tips. 🙂

  106. #111 by allensrepositoryofstuff on February 16, 2014 - 11:07 pm

    As a freelance editor I see many of these common mistakes. I think that I am doing so well and then editing my own writing I realize that I do the same mistakes. Doh!

  107. #112 by Franki on February 24, 2014 - 12:38 am

    Great advice. I will end up taking about 10,000 words out!

  108. #113 by Harley Quinn on March 23, 2014 - 8:41 pm

    Just wanna say a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Too much is a poison.

    My greated crime is the word ‘was’. I trekked through a chapter and removed most of the cases except the ones relating to genuine occurences in the past, and then I realised what the deals with that word is…

    “Petrov presented his argument” vs “The argument was presented by Petrov.” It’s less personal.

    And as well as that, ‘was’ subtly increases the distance from the past (when your story happened) to the present (your story being read). It subtracts from suspence, giving your readers the feeling they’re more likely to survive. And it detracts from the action because it’s further away. “Petrov presented” feels like it could have happened five minutes ago, maybe. The ‘was’ version could be days, weeks, months old.

    It’s subtle, but after I’d done with it I saw the difference.

  109. #114 by agmoye on April 9, 2014 - 10:32 am

    I came upon this blog and find that it makes a lot of good points. Now, you have created a lot of work for me taking another look at the books I have waiting editing. Not that I’m complaining but this article makes me take another look at what I have written. I am guilty of misusing all six points.

  110. #115 by T.Polish on April 21, 2014 - 8:12 am

    There’s a lot of grunt work to writing after the master piece is done. It’s funny how this is never discussed. People see the finished article and don’t really conceptualize the ground work that has gone in to it. It’s great to see that you are pointing out the “oopse” – this gives aspiring writers a more balanced picture. Thanks for the tips.

  111. #116 by jacquelinecaseypoetry on May 8, 2014 - 1:19 pm

    As a creator of sonnets, I love your editing tips. They work for the novelist and the poet.

  112. #117 by saharaj on May 27, 2014 - 6:00 pm

    Reblogged this on The Fencing Author and commented:
    I thought this was an worth while read about self-editing. It brings up some key problems in some literature while addressing them in a funny tone. The only thing I kind of disagree with is her last point about using verbs other than said/asked because I feel like sometimes it works. Opinion?

  113. #118 by Charles Gray on July 8, 2014 - 9:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Charles Gray's blog of writing and commented:
    An Excellent little piece from Kristen Lamb about how to edit your own work. Remember, the more you do the less your editor has to worry about obvious writing problems– which means you have a happy editor. Keeping your editor happy is very, very important.

  114. #119 by Roanne L. King on August 8, 2014 - 9:07 am

    This is great. I took notes and will be using this as I go through my manuscript prior to submitting it to my publisher. I think I’ve eliminated most of these, but have cut every adverb as a challenge. I will be looking for select areas where they will add emphasis. Sometimes I end up caught up in my story/plot and miss the simple errors that are bad habits from my older newbie writing days.

    • #120 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 8, 2014 - 12:22 pm

      Remember adverbs are NOT bad, only REDUNDANT adverbs, like “yelled loudly.” The verb implies it is loud. No need to brain-hold 😉 .

    • #121 by gilliansnotebook on August 12, 2014 - 2:48 am

      I’ve probably mentioned this before, (ad nauseum) that someone once told a group of would-be writers “First Spill your guts THEN clean it up.”

      I’ve heard it said, though, that getting a friend to critique your work is the quickest way to end a friendship. So, if you’re a newbie to the game, and not flushed with extra spending money, a good way to self edit IS to leave the project once it’s finished. Tuck it into a draw, (the bottom) for a few months, as you work on something else, Maybe even mark it on your calendar, (MAYBE) and then , a few months…. three maybe, perhaps longer, depending on how long it took you to finish the first draft. Anywho, give yourself that distance that enables you to look at your story as the READER, and NOT the WRITER. Once you can see a story with a readers eyes, you have the objectivity you need to fix what’s broken.

  115. #122 by gilliansnotebook on August 12, 2014 - 3:07 am

    Reblogged this on One Thing Or Another and commented:
    Self-editing as an exercise in discipline and $$ saving.

  116. #123 by Irene Callaway on August 13, 2014 - 12:56 pm

    Great Article – thanks for the reminders. Things I know or should know and sometimes forget. I’m not lazy but like some, too impressed with my own words.

  117. #124 by Tina Maurine on August 14, 2014 - 11:41 am

    Thanks for the helpful notes! I will definitely watch out not to make them. Have a copy printing now…

  118. #125 by Kira Morgana on August 18, 2014 - 6:44 pm

    Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
    Reblogging this one to keep track of it for my next editing adventure… yes, even I, the stupendous author of The Tower and The Eye, need to have these reminders printed out and stuck on the wall in front of me… *grins*

  119. #126 by kbgardener on August 20, 2014 - 8:44 pm

    I’m in the middle of a “was” hunt on my WIP. I’m shocked to see how many times I slip into passive voice!

  120. #127 by lauriegienapp on August 21, 2014 - 10:32 am

    Excellent list! I suspect many of us know these, but having a list makes it more clear. And of course it’s far easier to see these issues in the works of others, than in our own work — but again, having this list helps locate the problems.

  121. #128 by Paula S. Jordan on August 23, 2014 - 10:40 am

    I found your six easy tips just in time, as I attempt radical surgery on my first ever COMPLETE first draft. Now to check out the rest of your posts! Thank You.

  122. #129 by fabgreave on August 24, 2014 - 1:05 pm

    Thanks so much for this! I’m just getting stuck into my first short stories in a very long while and will apply all these before sending my material for editing. And yes, I would love to hear the unvarnished truth! *crosses fingers, arms, legs …eyes*

  123. #130 by Morgan LeAnne on August 24, 2014 - 4:01 pm

    This is great! I’m coming up on finishing my rough draft of my first book ever…..and I am definitely guilty of most of these things.
    Revision scares me.
    My heart starts hammering, and pounding, and I can feel my pulse in my head when I think about it.

  124. #131 by David J Delaney on September 20, 2014 - 5:01 am

    Reblogged this on david j delaney and commented:
    Really great post with tips on editing. Enjoy if you haven’t already seen it (o:

  125. #132 by Stuart M. Perkins on September 20, 2014 - 5:12 am

    We can all use tips, thanks!

  126. #133 by Camryn on October 3, 2014 - 3:47 am

    Nearly fell off my computer chair with laughter at the way eyeballs don’t slide back in once covered in dust bunnies. Awesome analogy, and an important lesson in keeping one’s physiology to themselves. The only thing I can think to add when self-editing is the show not tell thingamajig. When a characters thought process are churned out in vast monologues of boredom and unneeded drivel, I cringe and skip ahead.
    Great post!

  127. #134 by Marcia on October 29, 2014 - 9:27 pm

    Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    Quick (and great) tips for those of you who are ready to clean up your work before submitting it to your editor.

  128. #135 by Deborah Jay on October 30, 2014 - 8:13 am

    Great post 😀 Things we all need to remember.
    I’m putting the link to this post on my ‘Writer’s Resources’ page.

  129. #136 by Sari Gallegos on December 6, 2014 - 1:24 am

    I only just learned that adverbs are taboo! After all of this time, it seems the funny little man hawking adverbs to Molly in “Schoolhouse Rock” was a PUSHER!!! Who knew?
    Thank you so much for your clarification, I guess it comes down to a risk vs benefit analysis. Is the concept communicated by the adverb valuable enough to take the risk of detracting from the power and clarity of the verb itself.
    I was recently chastised for employing the word “reflexively” by a courageous friend. I kicked, (aggressively) I screamed (ferociously) , I argued (vehemently) that I needed to show that the action was routine, well practiced and without thought. It was sooooo important!! Finally we compromised, instead of reflexively catching, my character’s HANDS caught the object. I was pleased, it was body memory rather than a conscious act.
    OOPS, “out of the frying pan and into the fire!” …I guess its “back to the drawing board.” Or maybe since my POV character describing the event is only ten, we can assume it seemed as though the hands really did catch the object………hmmm
    Regretfully yours,
    Aspirating author

    PS: Despite all of the trouble you have caused, I am now editing my WIP with new eyes (couldn’t resist). It is so beneficial to understand why a paragraph feels awkward, rather than simply suffering the vague nausea with no cure in sight!
    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!!!

  130. #137 by lapseofmind on December 14, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    This is such a huge help! I just bookmarked it. I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo and actually finished on time but I’ve been struggling through the editing process. I’m relatively new to fiction writing(short stories off and on for the last few years) and this is shows me a lot about good writing/editing. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  131. #138 by rob on January 11, 2015 - 5:39 pm

    hi i am working on my first book and going to use your tips,
    in section 1 #The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes, I assume you shouldn’t say that the people smile all the time (“about time,”Lowenna said with a smile. // Grilk smiled back “i’m here aren’t I”) Just a few times a chapter?

  132. #139 by amber on January 25, 2015 - 12:26 pm

    Thanks so much for these tips! The most difficult adjustment is using “said” as a tag. In high school my English teachers slapped a dunce cap on my head for using this word. Now I’m trying to break the habit of using flowery poetic verbs for every stupid piece of dialogue.

  133. #140 by Tom Shrill on May 13, 2015 - 10:49 am

    Indeed, I agree with your views on the adverb. I always hear from published authors how bad adverbs are. If it adds something then by all means, I say use it.

  134. #141 by Marion Cornett on July 2, 2015 - 3:11 pm

    Wow, I laughed reading about the woman’s eyes flying across the room. Now back to more editing!

  135. #142 by Bunnet on July 5, 2015 - 10:53 am

    I shall try some, in my next writing

  136. #143 by Kelly on July 8, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    Great guidance here that I can actually put into action. You’ve answered a lot of the questions I had about writing etiquette in general. I have been caught in a conflict between defining my own personal writing style and proper editing. Thank you x

  137. #144 by krisznadasi on September 3, 2015 - 5:07 pm

    Good advice, funny delivery. In Hungarian we do use the kind of tagging. Besides, we use “-” instead of ” 🙂
    – Like this – I say.
    You’re in my favourites now, keep up the good job!

  138. #145 by krisznadasi on September 3, 2015 - 5:09 pm

    disappeared quote was:
    “You’re great,” he laughed

  139. #146 by Frantan on March 19, 2016 - 6:17 pm

    Thanks so much for this! I have a feeling I’m a repeat #5 offender….

  140. #147 by Bryan Dawe on August 10, 2016 - 11:57 pm

    Starting in on a story idea and I’m betting these tips are going to be a great help to me. “Whisper seductively”, now I understand about adverbs.

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