Axe Phrases That Don’t Enhance Your Story

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image by Julia_S

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract. —Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

See more about the book at the end of the post.

I noticed my editor is quick to suggest I delete phrases in my manuscript with the comment, “I don’t think you need this.”

Reasons Why to Delete

  1. Awkward
  2. Interrupts the flow
  3. Adds nothing to the moment
  4. Repetition

So read my example below and decide which phrases you would recommend deleting and why.

Example

Derek and Amy sat on Carter’s sofa with the throw pillows on either side.

Amy crossed her legs. “So why have you summoned us, Carter?”

“I’m tired of living alone. Yeah, I have a dog, but you two know it’s not the same.”

Derek leaned forward until his head passed his knees. “You had your chance with Alyson. Nothing stopped you from building a relationship with the lovely lady while you were with her.”

Amy elbowed Derek’s ribs, scrutinizing him. “Give Carter a break. He thought Alyson was interested in you.” 

Carter pointed at Derek. “I didn’t want to step in and lose your friendship.”

“Do you still feel that way—does my time with Alyson still make you uncomfortable?”

“Sort of. Seems like you never see how she looks at you when you’re not looking at her.”

image by overjupiter

Unnecessary Phrases and Reason #

Derek and Amy sat on Carter’s sofa with the throw pillows on either side (#3).

Amy crossed her legs. “So why have you summoned us, Carter?”

“I’m tired of living alone. Yeah, I have a dog, but you two know (#2) it’s not the same.”

Derek leaned forward until his head passed his knees (#1). “You had your chance with Alyson. Nothing stopped you from building a relationship with the lovely lady while you were with her. (#3).”

Amy elbowed Derek’s ribs, scrutinizing him (#2). “Give Carter a break. He thought Alyson was interested in you.” 

Carter pointed at Derek. “I didn’t want to step in and lose your friendship.”

Do you still feel that way— (#4) does my time with Alyson still make you uncomfortable?”“Sort of. Seems like you never see how she looks at you when you’re not looking at her (#2).”

Easier to Read

Derek and Amy sat on Carter’s sofa.

Amy crossed her legs. “So why have you summoned us, Carter?”

“I’m tired of living alone. Yeah, I have a dog, but it’s not the same.”

Derek leaned forward. “You had your chance with Alyson. Nothing stopped you from building a relationship with the lovely lady.”

Amy elbowed Derek’s ribs. “Give Carter a break. He thought Alyson was interested in you.” 

Carter pointed at Derek. “I didn’t want to step in and lose your friendship.”

“Does my time with Alyson still make you uncomfortable?”

“Sort of. Seems like you never see how she looks at you.”

Which of the four types of superfluous phrases do you tend to use?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising an early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

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American Christian Fiction Writers

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1 Comment

  1. Marcia

    I edited your example before reading your Easier to Read. I learned from this exercise, and I find it helpful to have the reasons that go with edits when I’m looking at someone else’s work. Thank you.

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