Let’s keep this real

All writers know that they could edit their works forever. Picking at nits for eternity.

This happens for a few reasons, but the most common are:

  1. Insecurity
  2. Error blindness

Most authors are at least somewhat neurotic when it comes to their work, I know I am! After four or five really hard passes, just let it go into the wild. If an agent or publisher thinks you have what it takes, they’ll let you know, even if what you’re peddling isn’t what they’re buying, they know what good writing looks like.

But the main reason I made this post is that pesky second reason, error blindness.

We know our stories inside and out.

They are our children.

This is why we don’t see the flaws.

We know what the story is supposed to be saying. But that’s not always what it IS saying. our minds gloss over the mistakes/problems and we think it’s all good.

**Cue dramatic music**

I found out something amazingly helpful. And it’s at zero cost. …Well, time invested. that’s a cost, I suppose.

What is this miraculous thing, you ask?

Macros

**Dum dum dum!**

So, Word and most other text editors have the ability to use macros. and Modern text editors are pretty damned smart. They can predict what you’re going to write, can recognize mistakes in grammar and useage!

So when you tell your text editor to have a look at your document for you…  the results can be pretty amazing.

Here is an example of one I use a lot. It’s called Needless Words:

Sub NeedlessWords()

‘ Highlights unnecessary words

‘ Written by Roger Mortis, revised by subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; word list by Janice Hardy

Dim range As range

Dim i As Long

Dim TargetList

TargetList = Array(“then”, “almost”, “about”, “begin”, “start”, “decided”, “planned”, “very”, “sat”, “truly”, “rather”, “fairly”, “really”, “somewhat”, “up”, “down”, “over”, “together”, “behind”, “out”, “in order”, “around”, “only”, “just”, “even”, “gave”)

For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)

Set range = ActiveDocument.range

With range.Find

.Text = TargetList(i)

.Format = True

.MatchCase = False

.MatchWholeWord = True

.MatchWildcards = False

.MatchSoundsLike = False

.MatchAllWordForms = False

Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True

range.HighlightColorIndex = wdTurquoise

Loop

End With

Next

End Sub

SO. Don’t be scared by the wall of code. Just make note of that target list. Those words are often times unneeded (thus the name). So what the macro does, is search the document and highlight all of them. So you then go through it and determine if each instance is indeed useless.   An example, is  When you say:

Janice sat down at the table

The macro says:

Janice sat down at the table

because  “Janice sat at the table” is a stronger sentence, you can remove down with confidence.

**Do look for a ‘turn highlight off’ macro as well, for when you’re done.**

But you can’t be lazy!

You must still do the work, because all this does is highlight suspect words. It’s up to you to recognize what makes a sentence stronger. For example, I generally ignore suggestions that appear in dialog, because that would strip out that character’s personality from it.

You can add words or phrases to that list too.  I like to add in long form contractions, because when I write, often I forget to use contractions, and my writing looks pretentious because of it. Shapow! contractions!

So, flex your Google-Fu and research macros for writers. Your work will thank you for it.

**EDIT**

Hey, if this has been helpful to you at all, please comment and share!

 

 

Writing advice, if you need it.

  1. Don’t be afraid to write.  You can delete (or erase!) anything. But do write. A lot. Writing is like any other thing you do. The more you do it, the better you get. Your first writing will probably be pretty bad. (mine was!) Don’t post your early stuff to the internet. It will pop up to haunt you later.
  2. Don’t show your writing to anyone you can corner. I know, you get excited, you just KNOW that you’re gonna be the next Rowling, or King. You can feel it. Unfortunately, most folk will get pretty annoyed pretty fast. And you don’t build fans like that. But someone has to read it, right? Yes. Absolutely. Find a small group of like-minded individuals, and share work amongst each other. In this way, you learn from each other and everyone wins. (I’m a fan of scribophile.com. They’re an exceptional resource for new and experienced writers alike) Showing off immature work only makes people think you are a bad writer. Not a writer in training. A bad one. First impressions, right? Find your writing group. They will be your best friends.
  3. Learn to take criticism. I can’t stress this one enough. Become a rhino with thick hide. It may seem like people are just being mean sometimes. (And sometimes they are, especially on the internet!) but this is how you improve. You do not exist in a vacuum, and there’s always someone who is a better writer. If they offer advice, at least listen to the reasoning behind the criticism. You are under no obligation to change your story to please anyone, but know that it might need to change to become better.