Taking a break from blogging this week but I’m so thankful to have the most precious newborn in my arms and I promise to tell all about him in my next post! Here’s a fun post on editing from one of my fabulous critique parters, Beverly Nault.

Tighten, cut and burn those problem areas, Writer. Like a good exercise routine, editing can target specific weaknesses. Here’s an acronym for three common loose and flabby areas.

Here’s our practice paragraph.

A noise woke up Lavinina with a startle and she looked at the alarm clock. It read five thirty. Her husband’s side of the bed felt cold and lonely. She rolled over to try and get some more sleep despite the noise. She remembered now, he’d called to say he was taking another shift, it would give him some overtime pay. She heard a noise and sat bolt upright, her heart beating a staccato. She looked outside the window and saw it was still dark outside and she wondered who could be in the house with her?

Can this be trimmed and tightened? Yes, SIR!

S-sensory terms. Remove all the “feelings” that are obvious by the action: looked, felt, heard, etc.

I-“it” is weak and nondescript. While impossible to totally eliminate, you can often recast the sentence and use more active, interesting phrasing. Seek and replace all its.

R-repeated words. Highlight verbs, nouns and objects occurring more than once and think of new ones, or rephrase them. Some writers read their manuscript backward or out loud to catch these.

Here’s our paragraph, trimmed and toned, with SIR in mind.

A noise Lavinina woke up with a startle and she looked at the alarm clock . It read five thirty. She rolled over to try and get some more sleep despite the noise. Her husband’s side of the bed felt cold and lonely. She remembered now, He’d called to say he was taking another shift, it would give him some for overtime pay. She heard A noise, and she sat bolt upright, her heart beating a staccato. She looked Outside the window, and saw it was still darkness outside and she wondered Who could be in the house?

One more for flow, and I’ll let you know who’s making all those noises…ahem, mysterious clatters.

Lavinina startled awake. The bedside clock read five thirty. An arm across Bobby’s cold, lonely side of the bed reminded her of his midnight call, “Taking another shift for some overtime pay.” A clatter made her sit bolt upright, covers pulled to her chin, heart hammering. The window curtains blew apart in the slight breeze, the streetlight glowing outside. Who could be in the house? Footsteps pounded in the
hallway and her door flung open. Tiny Abigail, face sticky, toothless grin wide, bolted toward the bed. “Daddy came home early and we made you can-pakes! Happy Birthday, Mommy!”

To tighten your prose, use the acronym SIR to remind you where to attack these loose and flabby areas. Sir, yes, SIR!

Beverly Nault is the author of Fresh Start Summer and her latest short story is now available!

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