Company’s coming! Run the vacuum. Pass the mop. Polish the furniture.
Editing a manuscript is a lot like cleaning house–remove the clutter, rearrange if necessary, and tweak until it shines. The greatest tool in the world comes to you courtesy of “Edit” and “Find”. Find what needs changing. Start with your last sentence. Is So really necessary? It’s easy to let useless words clutter your manuscript. May I suggest? Words such as: so, very, that, although, yet, rather, just, nearly, even, almost, perhaps, quite, then, and suddenly may very well be gumming up your flow of thought.
Avoid the use of redundant words and phrases and cut out the obvious. “Down at his feet”. The very same goes for punctuation, no need to over explain the use of a question mark or exclamation point. Review your adjectives and your reasons for including them. You want to manipulate the senses of your readers, not lose their interest before you have shown your best room in the house. Don’t just use words such as cold, hot, mean, or kind in passing. Use the opportunity to direct your readers emotions in preparation for the next reveal.
Sometimes the use of a metaphor will give the reader an even better sense of description. You want to show not tell your reader what a character is experiencing. You can do that by giving the reader a vibrant description about a particular instance. Substitute robust, concrete adjectives, throw in a few metaphors, and the reader becomes an active participant in that particular scene–feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling what the character is experiencing. In this you’ll kept the text active.
Watch any tendencies to recycle some choice words a little too often. Do you tend to use the same words over and over? BORING! If I may use a cliché, variety is the spice of life. Check for those words that occur frequently throughout the manuscript and substitute another similar word. Check for words such as felt, knew, figured, and heard. Omit these words by explaining how the character felt and what he heard or saw. You don’t need to indicate a character looked at someone before speaking. That’s assumed.
Spell check only checks for spelling, not usage. When in doubt, check the dictionary. What else should you look for when editing? White space – make sure you don’t have lengthy segments of narrative. Dialog helps to keep up the pacing. Remember, cleaning up your manuscript is just a matter of taking out the trash.