March 18, 2015
Color Code Editing
When you decide to write anything longer than one sentence, you’ll find that it’s very easy to use the same words again and again. (Like the word “again!”) Or perhaps you’re the kind of writer who just loves to use flowery, complicated, jubilant, explanatory adjectives…like flowery, complicated, jubilant, and explanatory.
This habit not only will make your writing flat and boring, but it will also do nothing to increase your desire to learn new words and use them cleverly and effectively.
There are two nifty ways to track down overused words. One way is to use the FIND tool in your word processing program on your computer, type in a certain word, highlight it for another stunning effect, and study how often you’ve used that word in your manuscript. You’ll be more than surprised at what you find.
Another way to track down those pesky words that keep reappearing and announce to the world that you’re a beginner is to print your manuscript and get a set of colored markers. Why bother to print it out? I’ve found that the pages take on an entirely new “look,” one that for some strange reason reveals a much stronger need for revision. And, if you use the markers to formulate a color code to find certain words, your revision could border on the professional level. Here’s what to do:
Make yourself a color code with the colored markers. Here’s a suggestion how you can color code your manuscript by either circling or highlighting the words in said color:
1. RED – adjectives
2. BLUE – adverbs
3. GREEN – being verbs, such as “am,” “is,” “was,” “were,” etc. (These words are passive voice; pitch them out and use stronger verbs for the active voice)
4. PINK – commas; many commas are unnecessary and/or misplaced
5. ORANGE – fancy vocabulary words; throw the rascals out and use clear, simple words
6. BROWN – metaphors and similes; yes, sometimes they’re cute and clever, but mostly they’re as boring as a sleeping dog and don’t add anything to your writing
7. YELLOW – clichés and trite expressions; these rascals only reveal lazy writing; be creative with your words and phrases, and you’ll soon have a contract for that “next great American novel.”
If you’re brave enough, go ahead and try this exercise, if only for five or six pages. I believe when you’re done, you’ll have a visual picture of your own writing habits that will probably shock you into becoming a better writer and editor. You might want to tackle the entire manuscript. If you take the time to do it, that publishing contract might be right around the corner.
P.S. Make plans to attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference July 19th to the 24th. Faculty sketches are at the MCWC’s website http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx The brochure and more details online are forthcoming. We’d love to have you join us!