I did yet another edit for The Bowdancer. This was to clean up “ly” words (softly, gently, carefully, smartly,…..). I found that those words are great to use to get a story down, but they don’t serve you well as you begin to polish your work. When you go in and do the big substantive and picky technical edits, you really need to either eliminate those words or replace them. It was right of my editor to have me look at those words again and question what I was really wanting to say at the moment I reached for a safe word.
Sometimes, it was as simple as breaking the word down. If I wrote: “…..he said softly,” that could become “…..he said in quiet tones” or “…..His voice was soft and warm.”
At other times, I had describe those non-verbals that were going on. When I did that, I didn’t rely on the “ly” words to tell what the characters were doing. By eliminating a pesky “ly” word, I had to show what was happening and stick in actions, postures, and eye rolls or whatever.
Did it make my work better? You bet it did. Will I still use “ly” descriptors? Yes, I will, especially in my first drafts. And I won’t beat myself up about it. These “ly” words are great tools.
Sometimes, by quickly grabbing one word that holds the essence of what I’m trying to achieve in a scene, will keep me going in the right direction until the story is told. Then, I can go back in and flesh out the work.
This edit was definitely as good exercise and a great lesson for future writing.