Monday, August 8, 2011


Good writers weed all the time. How? By taking out excess words. We do it to meet word counts and of course, to make our writing sharper.

I often weed as I write. (My inner editor is the intrusive type. It does help to send her on errands though...:)

What kinds of things do I look for? I look to eliminate the fluff, or empty phrases. For example:             

  • free gift  
  • at the present time                          
  • thought to myself           
  • end result                           
  • the honest truth                               
  • large in size        
  • past history                      
  • repeat again                                            

When considering whether to yank one of these phrases out of my carefully penned prose, I wonder…

  • Why wouldn't a gift be free. If it isn't, do I want it?
  • Can you think to anyone but yourself?
  • Doesn’t the result usually signify some end?
  • What exactly is the honest truth? Is there a dishonest truth?
  • If large isn’t a size, what is it?
  • Isn’t all history past?      
  • Why would I need to repeat something again?             

How are you at weeding the excess from your writing? What do you look for to help tighten and polish?

Don't Forget -

I am having a giveaway to celebrate the 300 follower milestone (almost there!). If you missed Thursday's post with entry info, click here.

    Happy writing!


    Photo credit: Stock Exchange


    1. Those are great examples of ways to cut! I'm learning to stop myself with some of those redundancies in first draft but a few manage to sneak through!

    2. I do enjoy tightening up writing, most times removing words that you can remove makes the meaning clearer. Sometime of course it's okay to leave in the odd word for voice.

      Moody Writing
      (I'm almost at 400, need about as many as you, but everyone seems to be at the beach)

    3. Funny examples, but we often make those mistakes. I tend to lean towards excess double modifiers.

    4. Some wise advice - weeding as editing is a wonderful image too. And that's the honest truth ;)

    5. Great tips, Karen. I read something once that has helped me when I know I need to cut something that I think is especially clever or a really catchy way of saying something but just not working, "My words are not sacred." I will tell myself that just as I hit "cut" and then I feel so much better about doing what is best for the piece as a whole.

    6. Hi Karen .. great ideas - I always love the learning I get by being around 'writing bloggers' .. I try and flip through to weed out the excess ..

      Cheers - Hilary

    7. Laura,
      I know what you mean. As aware of things as I can be, they still slip past me. Often! :)

      You know, I do too, unless I am super pressed for a deadline, then it is more of a chore. I'm learning to find that "voice" balance.

      Me too, and they sneak in when I am not looking, it seems!

      I'm all for images in the right places - working on that balance in my writing. And that too, is the honest truth! :P

      Thank you! Yes, I've heard that saying; it is a great one to abide by. I am better at it than I used to be. :)

      It is easier said than done, isn't it? But we're all works in progress. I enjoy your writing. :)


    8. Those are great examples. I also try to take out the "I looked" or "she turned" and "they glanced" stuff--it's always fluff in my stories.

    9. Hi Karen .. thanks so much! Very appreciated .. cheers Hilary

    10. What nice examples! I'm learning so much from your blog.

    11. Diane,
      More fluff sneaks into my writing than I expect. Glad to know I am not alone!

      LOL! Yes, well, fluff in the right places can work like Mood said. Glad I made you laugh. :)

      Thanks! Have to say, guilty of the "glanced" and "turned" thing. Need to work on that!

      You are welcome! :)

      Thank you! So glad they are helpful!


    12. Thanks for the reminder! I'm guilty of being a 'fluffy' writer. I'll be more careful to weed out excess words when writing my next post. Blessings!

    13. LOL, Those are great examples, Karen! One of my critique partners always used to catch me saying, "She sat down." Or "She stood up." Isn't there only one way to sit and one way to stand? :)

    14. Karen:
      My inner editor must be related to yours. I constantly try to find ways to cut words or say something better.

    15. I thought the more words the better - but what do I know?

    16. Vilisi,
      I think we all do this, and it depends on the situation, too. We all learn and grow as we go!

      I know, I just trimmed "down" from a phrase I had in the WIP. Who sits "up", you know? lol

      I think she must be. Chocolate does work as a bribe - just thought you might want to know...:)

      Well, it depends on what you are writing, in my opinion anyway. Now your posts are fun and interesting and have personality. I never think about the amount you have b/c you entertain and share great stuff!


    17. I weed as I go, but there is always more to weed in the follow-up edits.

    18. Hi Karen -

      LOL! Sometimes in our zeal to reach our word count, we resort to fluff. It's a lot harder to write in another subplot or develop a character.

      Susan :)

    19. Oh, yes. I like tight writing, and it's something we should always work toward. Sometimes I feel like there could never be too many words, but I'm learning what to keep and what to rid my work of.

    20. I'm getting back to editing on the 16th. It's the best part of writing, I think. Polishing, polishing, polishing. Love the shine, eh.

    21. Every few sentences I often make a quick adjustment, and after each session I usually go back and rephrase, cut and add. I like having a neat first draft.

      I don't think it's a detriment to my writing in any way. It's just one approach.

      (That last sentence was originally "It's just one person's way of approaching it." I guess I do this automatically.)

    22. I tend to slip up quite a bit. I need to be more careful of my sentences, they tend to be really long.

    23. Those are the kinds of things I look for. I usually take a break of a day or so between reads because they can be as illusive as weeds, for sure.

    24. Thank you for this reminder. I live and die (well, kinda) by word counts. This makes me want to tighten up and hone it well!

      Good stuff, Karen!

    25. Eileen,
      Yes, this IS true, isn't it? :)

      I've had that happen, but not too often. Ah, the trials of being a writer! lol

      I agree, there aren't too many words, just the need to pcik the right ones for the job!

      Yes, the shine is wonderful. I'll be looking for the bright light from your direction around the 15th!

      Hey, we're getting there, you know? And some of this can be part of our style, too, in the right balance.

      I agree; a break is a wonderful thing. Unless I procrastinate and cannot take that luxury. Aiming to better in that department!

      Thanks a bunch! I'm all for honing and improving. :)


    26. Ah, yes, weeding. Not my favorite thing to do in my garden but I don't mind too much in my writing. It always gives me a feeling of having achieved something important when I manage to cut words out that I used to think were essential.

    27. Your examples made me smile, remembering a manuscript evaluation I had recently with Mary Kole. I had written "nodded his head." And she asked, "What else can you nod?"

      Um, I said "hand," but she wasn't buying. I changed the line. :-)

    28. Ah, weeding. What helps me the most while weeding my writing is to read it aloud. Sometimes just hearing what my writing sounds like brings the weeds to the forefront.

      Your examples were fun to read, and I have to admit that I'm guilty of having used some of them!

      P.S. Today I met my double dog dare challenge. Stop by my blog for a moment to check it out. It was tough finding a spot to fit the word in, but it's in there! :-)

    29. I know I get wordy often times. I need to be more observant of these points you've made.

      Tossing It Out

    30. I like to use less words if possible, the shorter the better... too many words out there :0
      Love your examples Karen, thanks!

    31. Yat-Yee,
      I don't care for weeding my garden either. Editing doesn't get dirt under your fingernails! :)

      I've done that one too! Too bad she didn't go for your clever alternative. :)

      That's a great tip! I like to read my work aloud through the editing process in general. It really helps. Will hop over to your blog!

      I think we all can, or at the very least, we all need to edit!

      You are welcome! Word economy is a good thing!


    32. Oooo, you're just 2 away from 300!

      I had so many "suddenly" spots in my book, it was giving me whiplash!

    33. If I can take out a word and lose nothing from the meaning of the sentences, then I usually take it out. And I agree about the "Free gift." Any time I hear that phrase it irks me to no end.

    34. Those are great examples and make perfect sense. Only one away from 300! Yay!

    35. Theresa,
      I know, it's exciting! :) Thanks for your help and for posting it on FB. Much appreciated!

      Yes, I agree, and that's how I try to edit. So "free gift" is your pet peeve? "Thought to myself" gets to me, even when I hear people say it.

      Thanks so much. :) Yes, almost at 300; I am excited!


    36. I love your examples
      I write 'very' ... a lot when I write.. then I cut most of them out LOL

    37. Michelle,
      Thank you! Yes, "very" snags me too sometimes. :) Good thing we can edit!
      Happy weekend,


    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!