Tightening your Writing by Suzanne Jefferies

So much focus is on the writing, it’s easy to forget the editing. And yet, most of writing is rewriting, which means…editing. 

First up, there are those writers who aren’t keen on editing. They see it as a chore. Shouldn’t a writer just know how to write and badda-bing-badda-boom, perfect prose emerges? Not a single typo, repetitive phrase, clunky adverb, or awkward phrase. Perfect.

Guess what? There is no such person. That’s not how writing works. Ever. And if someone claims they write perfect prose, they’re probably exaggerating. Or lying.

Third time’s a charm

Here’s the deal: Once you have that publishing contract, your novel will head out for the first round of edits. Here’s where you’ll wonder how you got a contract in the first place. Your editor is generally not a cuddly bunny hippity hopping you through the changes. They need the book to be as close to perfect as possible (notice I said, close to), and they will let you know how far away from ‘close to’ your manuscript is.

But, they’re not done with you, yet. The manuscript then goes through a second round of edits. There will be even more things you need to fix up. Here’s where you’ll discover that you’re a huge fan of certain stock phrases or that your hero and heroine use the same swear words.

Now, it’s ready for publication. Nope, no it isn’t. It now heads out to the proofer. Once again, the proofed copy will be back in your inbox for checking. And, interestingly, there will still be some words/phrases out there that despite all of this editing, like word ninjas, have squeezed through unnoticed – these often get picked up by your ARC (advanced reader copy) readers. Or people who hated your book and have listed your infringements on Goodreads.

Let’s rewind

We’re getting ahead of the process.

Yes, there are developmental editors, proofers, copy editors, even acquisition editors who have a say in the final product—publishing is always a team process.

But, that’s when you get the contract.

Before you get the contract, you have to work through your first draft yourself.

Some people engage their beta reader team, others hire an editor. But, it’s still going to be about you and your words.

Spitting it out

Getting that first draft out can be blood, sweat and tears. Or it could have been like swimming in a cool pool on a hot summer’s day. However, the process of writing your draft felt, you’ll be left with the same outcome—a completed first draft. This is absolutely time for celebration.

Some keen writers decide this is the moment to hit the self-publish button. Please. Don’t. Patience, in this case, it not so much a virtue, as a career-saving move.

When the celebration party’s decorations have long since been taken down, it’s time to take that first draft out again, and begin THE WORK. How long is long enough? I like to wait a few months. Why? If you start THE WORK without distance from the story, you won’t see the mistakes. Your head is still fresh with the story, and will actively sabotage your attempts at editing. This is true of craft mistakes as well as the language.

THE WORK needs to begin long after you typed ‘The End’.

THE WORK is what will make your manuscript POP.

THE WORK can be done by an outsider, but you will pay plenty moola for their expert services.

What’s all this talk about THE WORK? Surely, THE WORK was downloading the story in the first place? Nope. Sad to say, that was the easy bit.


 Language matters.

Yes, THE WORK  means looking at your characters, your plot, your internal and external conflict, all the craft elements that make up your story. But, it also means casting your writing, your language, under the microscope. Oh, yes, that work.

When you’re deep in the throes of writing, you’ll be using shortcuts. This is normal. You don’t want to disturb the momentum of getting the story down, and who can blame you? You’ll use lazy verbs, and filler words, you’ll pick out cliched comparisons, and use your repeat offender words over and over again.

Every character will be standing up or turning to talk to someone or grinning like jackasses. Things will happen ‘a bit’, ‘a lot’, and ‘a little’. And you’ll discover that you have favourite words that you like to repeat repeat. (I binge-read the last two Games of Thrones’s books. I could have made up a drinking bingo card with words like ‘mummers farce’ and ‘cockslap’.)

You might even do this if you’re one of those writers who edits as they go. But oftentimes, these writers never finish their manuscript, because the noose of perfection hangs them back. Some authors can spend days mulling over one sentence. But, I’m talking about those of us who want to get to ‘The End’.

You’ll probably have injected a whole bunch of filter verbs and yanked your reader out of the narrative, unintentionally, of course, or riddled your passages with present participles (verb forms ending in -ing).

Cleaning up your language

It’s bad enough that you have to also check for plot points and character arcs, but language as well?

Where to start?

Firstly, it’s not about spelling and grammar. Or making sure that you have topic sentences or correct syntax, although these can be helpful. These issues can be addressed with the beady eye of a proofreader at the very end of THE WORK.

THE WORK focuses on:

  • Strengthening what’s already there. Those ‘just-for-now’ descriptions can be turned into something stronger, something better, more arresting.
  • Deepening your point of view. Without realizing it, you’ve probably author intruded in your own narrative. You can pull these filters out like weeds, pulling your reader closer.
  • Cutting the wheat from the chaff. You probably already have a couple of nuggets hidden in a haystack of filler words—you just can’t see them yet.

Although it’s WORK, it’s actually easier…

Than fixing up plot holes.

Because it’s about the language, the focus is on making your writing the best it can be. That means you can use ‘find’ and ‘replace’ in certain cases, to chop your work down by half. We still can’t do that with plot holes…

That’s why I’ve put together TIGHTEN YOUR WRITING. This six-day course with Savvy Authors breaks down the various language aspects you need to be addressing as you sit down to edit the language.


Love this? Check out Suzanne’s class right here on SavvyAuthors!

Only one person knows Max Montgomery’s deepest, darkest synesthesia secrets—Billy Jorge. But he ran out on her after six months, when she was still a teen, leaving her to deal with the fallout. A year before, Max arrived back in Liberty to bury her mother, pack up and sell the family house and head out to pursue the rest of her life. So, why’s she still there? Because Billy’s back in Liberty in his role of local preacher, Father William Jorge.


Buy Touched here.



Other books by Suzanne Jefferies


Dance of Desire

The Romeo Prototype

The Joy of Comfort Eating

The Hunt

Connect with Suzanne

Join her FB group Suzanne’s Sinners, Saints & Lovers, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bookbub, or visit her at www.suzannejefferies.com.

Suzanne Jefferies loves to write romance from contemporary to the downright blush-worthy and believes in regular HEAs to kick away those reality blues...