Tag Archives: amediting

Destroy All Cling-Ons: Your Final Manuscript Polish by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

Let’s take your manuscript from finished to polished by searching out the Cling-Ons lurking within it. Doing so will reduce word count, tighten your writing, and impress the agents, editors, and publishers who read it.

What are Cling-Ons? Useless words taking up precious space and weighing your writing down with wordiness. Fighting them off is a constant battle, but if you succeed, you’ll see a huge difference in your final manuscript.

When you encounter a Cling-On, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the meaning change if I remove it?
2. Do I need it for clarity?
3. Does removing it change my voice/style?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, you can keep the Cling-On! It’s revealed itself as a Federation member. But most Cling-Ons will try to convince you they’re allies when they truly plan treachery. Consider each one’s usefulness and delete whenever possible.

Cling-On #1: That
That seems like an innocuous word, but in fiction, it’s often not needed at all. Remove it, and if you don’t notice its absence, keep it out.

Weak: The Star Fleet ensign feared that Klingons had taken over the bridge so much that he didn’t beam up.
Better: The Star Fleet ensign feared Klingons had taken over the bridge, so he didn’t beam up.

Cling-On# 2: Qualifiers
A qualifier is a word or phrase that increases or decreases the modified word’s effect. Strong writing takes a stance and sticks with it, rather than qualifies it. A partial list: very, quite, rather, more, most, less, too, so, just, enough, still, fairly, really, pretty, even, a bit, a little, a (whole) lot, a good deal, kind of, sort of, only, much.

Weak: The really scared Star Fleet Ensign didn’t much want to beam up.
Better: The scared Star Fleet Ensign didn’t want to beam up.

Cling-On #3: Passive Verbs
Few things make action drag worse than encountering a passive verb. Most commonly, a passive verb is a form of to be + another verb, but these are also common: begin, start, going, seems, got, and becomes.

Weak: The Star Fleet ensign became scared as he began to fear Klingons controlled the bridge, so he wasn’t going to beam up.
Better: The scared Star Fleet ensign feared Klingons controlled the bridge, so he didn’t beam up.

Destroying passive verb Cling-Ons comes with a bonus: you’ll probably catch most instances of passive voice in your manuscript as well.

Cling-On #4: Stage Directions
Stage directions are when we write every movement a character takes, much like blocking an act for a play. But readers can, and do, infer most movements on their own. Words commonly appearing in stage directions: turn, put, rose, stand, walk, reach, look, enter, exit, glance, lift, push, pull.

Weak: The ensign rose, crossed the room, went up to the bridge, and readied her phaser.
Better: The ensign headed to the bridge, phaser readied.

Cling-On #5: Prepositions
Prepositions are often superfluous because readers assume the information they give, especially for directional prepositions. Common ones to delete: at, to, up, down, of, in order to, toward, forward, back, along, away.

Weak: The ensign of Star Fleet ran away from the transporter bay in order to avoid the advancing Klingons.
Better: The Star Fleet ensign ran from the transporter bay to avoid the advancing Klingons.

Cling-On #6: Sensing Verbs
When the five senses are literally invoked to describe a scene, chances are you don’t need them. If your character’s point of view is clear, we only need the description. Writing that the character hears, feels, or sees something are the most common Cling-On sensing verbs.

Weak: McCoy heard thundering feet as the Klingons took over Sick Bay. He saw the Bat’leth’s shiny edge before he felt its cold metal slice his finger.
Better: Feet thundered as the Klingons took over Sick Bay. The Bat’leth’s cold, shiny metal sliced through McCoy’s finger.

Cling-On #7: Adverbs
Destroy adverbs mercilessly—oops, I mean without mercy. Editors frown on heavy adverb use, and that preference isn’t likely to change anytime soon. The earlier Cling-Ons include many adverbs, so use this step to hunt down ones ending in -ly.

Weak: The scared Star Fleet ensign shakily hit the self-destruct button as the Klingons terrifyingly rushed the bridge.
Better: Shaking, the Star Fleet ensign hit the self-destruct button as the Klingons rushed the bridge. They held Bat’Leths high and chanted, “TlhIngan maH!”

Now you have the weapons needed to defeat the Cling-Ons hiding in your manuscript. To battle!


Rebecca Gomez Farrell writes all the speculative fiction genres she can conjure up. Her first fantasy novel, Wings Unseen, debuted in August 2017 from Meerkat Press. As Kirkus Reviews describes it: “War, treachery, and star-crossed lovers abound in this high fantasy novel. . . . Farrell’s book is imaginative, filled with detailed worldbuilding, but rarely bogged down in exposition. Each of the protagonists’ stories is engaging in its own way.”

Her short stories, nearing 20 in all, have been published in the Future Fire, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Pulp Literature among other outlets. You can also find several of her short stories in new anthologies: Little Letters on the Skin, Through a Scanner Farkly, and Dark Luminous Wings.

Becca’s food, drink, and travel blog, theGourmez.com, has garnered multiple accolades and influences every tasty bite of her fictional worldbuilding. She lives in Oakland, CA, with her tech wizard husband and two trickster cats. If this writing gig doesn’t work out, becoming a tour guide is next. Website: RebeccaGomezFarrell.com. Twitter: @theGourmez.

 

Anthology For Your Writers’ Group by April Grey

magazine rack
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Could you, should you, dare you, put together an anthology for your writers’ group?

In this age of Internet and computers, we all know how easy it is to publish online. Just hit “send.” However, putting together an anthology (ebook and/or paper) for your writers’ group may take a bit more effort.

For me, a love of learning led me to take classes from Dean Wesley Smith
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/online-workshops, in how to create a book cover and how to format a book interior. Easy Peasy? Hmmm. Well, there are many You Tubes that teach you how to do formatting and design, so yes, with a little determination and time you can do it.

Although the how to’s is something that almost anyone can do, coming up with material—that’s where having a pool of creative people is vital.

The first anthology I put together was inspired by our local community garden, along with two stories about gardens from writers I knew. I’ve been involved in SF, Fantasy and Horror workshops since the early 90’s, both on-line and in real life and so would read many, many stories a year to give crit. In return I also got my stories reviewed.

Once the idea to put together an anthology came to me, I asked of the writers in my circle if they had any stories about gardens, gardeners or gardening. I pulled together six stories. Not a lot of material, but I was thinking this could be a promotional item. I included excerpts of material from the writers. Six stories transformed into twelve! I’d seen samplers from all sorts of publishing houses.

Besides years of critting, I was an editor for Damnation Press. This rewarding work allowed me to get to know an even larger circle of writers than from my writing groups.

My second anthology was again inspired by events in my life. Cronehood isn’t for the fainthearted. This time I had ten stories to go together. Instead of photoshopping a cover all by myself, I enlisted the work of Dirk Strangely. I have long been a fan of his Tim Burtonesque style, and I figured why not splurge and send some money his way? I’ve used his artwork for four of my covers.

We all know that a cover can make or break a book. Of course, what’s between the covers matters a great deal, but it’s the cover that lures the reader in to crack open the book or read an on-line sample.

Wonderful cover art, great stories, a formatter, and an editor. That’s it. For ebooks, Smashwords is extremely user friendly. Createspace’s customer service is great (though I always fight with them about the spine—that’s for another blog).

I haven’t mentioned publicity, maybe because that’s my least favorite bit. Word of mouth, blog hops, reviews, all of this needs to be done both leading up to release and after publication. Since this is being done not to get rich, but to promote your writing group, that you really need to have group support in getting the word out that your anthology is a must-read among a sea of other self-published works.

Another thing needed is a theme. Most anthologies have one. So far the Hell’s series has focused on gardens, crones, pets, and music. All the stories are more dark fantasy and humor than horror and can appeal to a wide audience.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be co-editor of our local Horror Writers Association’s anthology, New York State of Fright. It’s at its publisher right now and should be out in 2018. I’m very excited to see that work of so many writers who I have known for years and greatly respect. The theme is centered on New York and it is a varied and exciting read!

I hope that this has gotten you thinking about your own writers’ group. Great stories and cover art are the biggest factors. If you have that, then you should consider this as a great project for the new year!


Author April GreyApril Grey’s short stories are collected in The Fairy Cake Bakeshop and in I’ll Love You Forever. She is also the author of two urban fantasy novels: Chasing the Trickster and its sequel, St. Nick’s Favor.

She edited the anthologies: Hell’s Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Cursed Instruments; Hell’s Garden: Mad, Bad and Ghostly Gardeners, Hell’s Grannies: Kickass Tales of the Crone and last year’s, Hell’s Kitties and Other Beastly Beasts.

She and her family live in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC in a building next to a bedeviled garden. Gremlins, sprites or pixies, something mischievous, lurks therein. Someday she’ll find out. Please visit www.aprilgrey.blogspot for her latest news.  Follow her on Twitter and FaceBook