Month In Review: April 2017

This post is written in advance, because as you’ll probably glance down to see, I move today! Lots of lugging boxes and a 5+ hour drive. I honestly enjoy packing and moving—it’s the unpacking that I hate. I like putting things away, but having to unpack furniture and arrange it… Not a fan. Anyway, April is done, unbelievably, and I’m looking forward to summer. I feel a lot of opportunity, even if I’m still being dragged down by negative thinking and whatnot.

A celebration: I am officially out of Windsor and done with university. I have my degree! (Well, almost. It will arrive in the mail, hopefully.)

A change: I moved back to my hometown today!

A conflict: My eating disorder was a nightmare this month.

A relief: I’m more at peace with myself being divided between art and writing.

A regret: I didn’t revise as much as I wanted to.

A random memory: I saw a husky puppy walking down the street one morning (with the owner, of course), and the puppy stopped by a signpost. The owner tugged at the leash, and the husky pranced up to him with a big stick in its mouth. Like, a huge stick. Which reminds me of another memory… A guy shouted outside and I looked out the window to see him carrying a branch that was literally twice his height. Big sticks make us happy, I suppose.

Onward to May! I’m hoping to visit my oldest brother, especially since his birthday is in the end of the month. I really want to see some mountains, so visiting him in Alberta would be fun—and I’d get to see my grandpa for the first time in probably a decade. There’s so much I can do with my time nowadays that I need to really hone my focus and work on my projects. Or, I can fall into the existential crisis that’s been lurking around since the beginning of the month. I’m hoping to try new things and test my dedication this upcoming month: jogging; finishing art projects; finishing writing projects; working on my relationships with friends, family, my boyfriend, and myself. It’ll be an adventure. Wish me luck!

Writing Resource Roundup: Revision

Since I started revising my own novel a few weeks ago, I figured the resource roundup for this month should go in line with whatever I’ve been looking up. I may be an editor, but editing your own work is entirely different from editing someone else’s work. These resources are for your own self revision! There will only be a few resources, though, since most of the advice intersects from each of the individual posts and articles.

How to Edit Your Story Like a New York Publisher by Pamela Hodges from The Write Practice

5 Key Questions Writers Should Ask When Revising Writing by Debbie Harmsen from Writers Digest

How To Revise Your Plot in 3 Easy Steps by Tomi Adeyemi

The Best Way To Revise Your Novel by Tomi Adeyemi

I have been obsessed with Tomi’s resources since I discovered her site, and these three posts are so helpful with revising. I also recommend checking out her worksheets and resources for writers!

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This book has ample information on editing your own fiction. I will say that it’s less developmental and substantive editing, and more focused on line editing, but I believe it’s still an invaluable resource for writers in any phase of their writing.

Also, here’s a sneaky self-promotion: I have written on developmental edits and line edits!

Do you have any resources and tips for your own revising?

BuJo Comparison: April 2016 and April 2017

April 2016 was the second full month of using my bullet journal. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been doing this BuJo thing for a year, but my differences in spreads definitely show how I’ve improved, to put it simply.

The beginning of 2016 was a time of rocky change for me. I needed to prioritise the smallest tasks for my self-care and well-being. Hence, my spreads for my bullet journal reflected that, and I used a ton of daily layouts. I’ll be honest, I hate the majority of my March – August 2016 bullet journal. The notebook was lined while I gravitating toward dot grids layouts, and they’re all messy.

April 2016

A notebook open to a page with a daily to-do list and a list of tasks and deadlines.

An open notebook with a food list on the left page and two daily to-do lists on the right page.

  • Working in a lined notebook from Staples.
  • Using only one side of the pages because the ghosting of the ink from the previous side was too intense to write over top.
  • Less decoration.
  • Initial discovery of lettering techniques and washi tape.
  • Prioritising small tasks, reminders, schoolwork, and self-care.
April 2017

An open notebook that has "Focus on your gains, not your losses" on the left page, and a month plan on the right page with a calendar and list of to-do items.

  • Working in a dot grid notebook from Productive Luddite.
  • Using both sides of the pages however I like, because ink ghosting is barely present!
  • More decoration.
  • Comfortably using lettering techniques and washi tape.
  • Prioritising goals and projects.

A lot has changed, but that’s also because my April 2017 spread is very different to my previous spreads. You can look through my bullet journal category or my Instagram to find more of my commonly used spreads, and even those are different. The structure and dot grid are the biggest changes I can see.

But we can all notice that my BuJo started out really rough and messy. It’s gotten rough and messy again. My February and March layouts were incredibly beautiful (I think) and structured. I guess this is what people call balance?

Since I only have the monthly look for April, I have a smaller notepad I’ve been using this past week for my self-care items. It really, really helps me to unwind. Every time I need a bullet journal break, I go to this “daily scoop” notepad that I made. Would anyone be interested in my posting that? It’s a Word doc and can print 2 of the undated sheets on an 8.5 x 11 inch page, and I absolutely love it.

My Hometown

I’m moving back to my hometown at the end of the month. The longest time I’ve spent there, since I moved out for university, was from April to August of 2015. Now, I’m moving back to live with my dad for an indefinite and longer period of time.

I’m not going to get into the fact that I’m an adult and I’ll be living with my parent again. Instead, I’m going to focus on the parts of my hometown I’m excited to see again.

The local library is a 20-minute walk away, uphill. I can either walk along the street and end up there, or I can walk through the trail in the forest by the creek—and get there in the same amount of time. Because the library works within a county and has three branches in different communities, there’s an interlibrary loan system. Considering the population where I’m from is 99% white, I don’t have high hopes that the reading selection reflects that, but I’ll see what’s available when I’m back.

I feel conflicted about how out-of-the-way my hometown is. We have to drive into a town to get groceries and literally anything that we may need. Nothing is within walking distance, aside from the library and a nearby plaza. A positive about this is that I won’t be impulse buying fast food or other products very often. A negative about this is that I’ll have to drive, get a ride, and work with my drivers’ schedules in order to get things.

I can’t wait to see stars. In Windsor, the light pollution is bad and I can’t see many stars. But in my hometown, I can look up and see actual constellations. I love the cosmos, and being able to look outside at night and feel small under the sky.

The air in my hometown is so breathable. I’m lucky to not have pollen allergies or asthma, so living in Windsor wasn’t too terrible. But the pollution is horrible and the smells from downriver are awful. Every time I visited my dad, I’d get home, step out of the car, and take a deep breath. The fresh air through the summer will be amazing.

A backyard, a book, and a comfy chair under the sun or umbrella shade. What more do I need to say?

The temperatures will be lower during the summer. I’m tired of the 30 to 40-degree (Celsius) temperature in Windsor, plus the humidity. My hometown is still warm, but it’s more bearable.

I’m looking forward to being with my family again, too. My grandparents and one of my aunts live nearby and I’ll be living with my little brother and dad. My brother can be a huge pain, but he’s still my brother. My dad is eager to have my home and support all my creative endeavours in the best way he can. The best part about living with my family? They’re often not home. I’ll have lots of time to myself, and fewer distractions and auditory triggers.

The best part of moving back home will be the lack of bills. I’m so grateful my dad won’t be asking me to foot rent, utility, and grocery bills. It’s another way he’ll be supporting me, since he couldn’t support my university career.

I’ve always had an appreciation fro my hometown, but it’s grown as I’ve lived away from it. It’s not the same feeling of love I had while I was a child growing up there, and it’s not as if I return home and expect or hope for good childhood feelings. Instead, I’m coming back to my small village and excited to be somewhere quieter, cleaner, and comfier.

Literary Tips: Description

Description in writing means you’re trying to show your readers how something is in a physical, tangible, or visceral way. While I write, I flip between describing too much and not describing enough. Some scenes will be filled with too much literary painting of a location, and others leave me wondering where on earth my characters talk, stand, and exist. I have a few tips for how I try to describe, since I know my weaknesses: I go overboard or I don’t go far enough at all. These tips are designed for fellow writers who can’t find a balance between the two!

As always, remember the voice and style you’re writing in. Some of these tips won’t be recommended depending on your style. If you’re writing, say, a clinical sci-fi story, then toning down on metaphor and simile will be more aligned to your story’s voice.

Anyway, here are my tips for writing description if you struggle to find a balance!

General

Consider senses (sight, sound, smell, feel, taste, size/scale/magnitude, balance, time)

Sensory details make a scene more visceral. The classic five senses are great for putting characters and the setting in reality. However, there are more senses to consider! I personally like to use senses in time and scale for my setting. I’ll describe how big things are in relation to each other, like the character, or how time feels when it’s passing or not passing. Using a sense of warmth and chill is one of my tactics for describing characters—though I tread carefully with that, since it may turn cliche very quickly.

Characters

Pick one physical trait as a first impression for readers and other characters.

One stand-out feature often packs a bigger punch than multiple features to describe a character’s appearance. If I focus on a detail while giving a broad picture image of a character, while I’m reading, I can somehow imagine the character more easily. Think of a stand-out feature of someone you know well or care about. It doesn’t necessarily define their image, but it’s memorable. You want to write memorable characters.

Try to “package” their appearance, instead of cataloguing all of their features.

Find descriptors that do multiple things at once instead of listing out an excessive amount of them. Lists are great, but too many descriptions at once will overwhelm a reader. This goes along with picking one stand-out trait. When you package a character using fewer words, you give the reader broad strokes and impressions of the character. A woman with a dark complexion on a slim build who has green eyes framed by thick, bushy eyebrows that nearly touched her temples—this kind of description packages a character’s appearance better than saying “She had dark brown skin, black hair, with slim limbs and a tall frame, while her emerald eyes sat under thick, bushy eyebrows.” This latter description is more of a catalogue. They both say the same thing (dark hair and skin, slim figure, green eyes, thick eyebrows), but proportionally, they focus on different aspects. I will emphasise one thing here, though: be aware of stereotypes, particularly bigoted ones. A flamboyant gay man is a stereotype. A sassy black woman is a stereotype. Be aware of them, particularly if you’re writing characters with identities and ethnicities different than yours.

Show one physical quirk that expresses one emotion.

This tip is very specific. I like to pick one quirk, habit, or behaviour that shows a character’s emotion. This is where people watching helps me make a mental database of quirks! Some people twirl their hair when they’re thinking. When I’m incredibly focused, I nibble on my dead cuticles. For the same emotion, my boyfriend chews at his fingernails. When I’m anxious, I rub my thumb against the side of one of my fingers, or I click my fingernails together (if they’re long). There are cliche body language gestures for certain emotions (such as chewing on your nails), but if you watch people mindfully, you’ll notice that they have unique gestures. It helps to people watch the same person often, or even yourself, to come up with these quirks.

Setting

Avoid “white room syndrome” by describing the setting near the beginning of a new scene/chapter.

“White room syndrome” is when your characters exist in a state of nothingness while they talk or act. They may be moving around or interacting with each other, but they lack an environment. I always picture a floor-less, wall-less room with the characters standing on nothing. Like the scene in The Matrix before Neo and Trinity gear up at the climax. Or, for more examples, the “White Void Room” shown often in film and television. I avoid this by writing a bit of setting description near the beginning of the scene, to set the stage.

Use your POV character to describe the location.

What would they notice? What interests them? What stands out or doesn’t stand out to them? Just like you and your friends, you’ll notice different details when looking at or experiencing something.

Worldbuilding

Aim for nuances and mood.

This tip is similar to the character packaging one. Instead of cataloguing all the surroundings and environment, try to create an atmospheric mood with a few details. A rainy day on a forested hill has a mood. A mix of conifer and broadleaf trees, illuminated by beams of sun above the character… that also has a mood. What doesn’t have a mood? “I walked into the forest, noting the pine and broadleaf trees swaying, and climbed the hill, travelling deeper.” There’s no quality of light, weather, or environment to overlay the entire image.

Avoid dumping information on the reader in order to show as much as possible of your world.

This tip goes for characters as well, but I emphasise it for setting. Since I write fantasy, it’s also my primary reading genre. Fantasy writers want to convey their created or altered world in as much detail as possible to their readers. Perhaps it’s an insecurity of ours, and we don’t think the place is “real” enough and we overdo the description. Or perhaps the world is our primary interest in the story and we’re just too dang excited about it to stop describing it. Regardless, too much at once will disconnect the reader from the story. We learn about the world naturally by learning slowly as we grow up, as we visit new places, as we research different countries. Small details add up over time and readers can more easily remember bite-size chunks to form the world in their mind as they read.


Hopefully you can take away something useful from this post! What are some of your weaknesses when it comes to description? What about your strengths?

April 2017 Bullet Journal Spread Check-in

This is a quick post as a follow-up to my April spread!

I changed my regular layout, so I figured it would be beneficial to see how it’s going for me.

I haven’t added much to my layout. For the first week, I sort of neglected it. But now I’m referring back to my checklists and preparing to add more information. I haven’t gotten around to closing utility accounts, so I can’t forget to deal with those near the end of the month.

Halfway through the month, I don’t think I’ll do this set-up again. I prefer having more detail and to-do lists. I think I’ll change up the next spread I do in May, rather than sticking to the ones I’ve been doing before. I’m not checking in to my bullet journal as much as I used to. In a way, this month-only view has been a bit of a break from my planner.

I won’t say that this spread didn’t “work” and that I’ll never do it again. It’s ended up being something I’m not focused on, but not neglecting.

My PTSD And Motivation

This is part of a series where I talk about my complex posttraumatic stress disorder. The first post outlines my C-PTSD/PTSD.

The majority of motivation lies in the thought, “I am able and want to achieve this.” We’re motivated to do something because we think we can get there, and ultimately we want to get there. There is an inherent desire spurring us to do whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves. We want to go to college, so we’re motivated to do what it takes to get there. We want to have a published book. We want to get the job. We want something and we see the means to the end goal, or we at least discover them on our way to the goal.

Having PTSD makes this a little difficult. I struggle with desire and capability.

I find it hard to set a goal and reach it, shown by my track record and trail of unfinished projects, because my PTSD fills me with fear and insecurity. My PTSD developed over a time of instability, and this affected my ability to set goals and maintain progress toward them. I grew up without knowing when something will get upended. I became highly alert of the possibility that things would change. In short, I was always on the lookout for the next interruption and disruption.

This pattern of seeking disruption stalks me. I’m a mile ahead of my goals and their means. I’m a mile ahead of doing Step 1. I process to a hypothetical Step 100 and essentially create disruptions for myself by looking at setbacks and obstacles between 1 and 100.

This is why I cried when I finished a complete rewrite of my novel.

Now, I’m there again, processing from Step 1 to 100 for the revision of that same novel. I’m trying to stay motivated to see Step 1 through to completion. I write to-do lists. I make checklists. I break my goals down into specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely, small goals. “Revise THE PILGRIMAGE” becomes multiple steps of revision, with a checkbox beside them and an end point. I’m still on Step 1, which is a read-through and note-taking. I’m struggling to stay motivated. I’m jumping past Step 1, trying to rationalise and strategise how to make my way through the next steps… when I’m not there yet.

My motivation turns into tactics for the big picture journey, rather than the small goals I set up. The “traumatic” and “stress” aspects show in motivation and goal setting. The trauma comes back, and the past occurrences and similarities show themselves. The stress comes back and soaks through all the rational efforts.

Dissociation and low self-esteem are also factors that inhibit my ability to stay motivated, even with end goals and actionable steps to reach them. My PTSD also features manic episodes, and they’re a form of elated dissociation. I’m untouchable in mania, just like I’m untouchable in dissociation; but with mania I have power on the world, whereas with dissociation I have invisibility and disconnect from it.

How can I stay motivated when I’m not here, or when I am but I’m filled with wishful thinking? How can I stay motivated when my brain is wired to find every possible setback? How can I stay motivated when I’m too occupied with navigating fears? How can I stay motivated when there are 99 steps between my current state and the end goal, and I have zero idea what I might need to face with each step? How can I stay motivated when my brain and body have only been used to strategise my mortality?

It’s hard to rewire myself. All the motivational quotes, lists of achievements, goal setting, and reassurance in the world won’t help me if my mind can’t believe them; or if my mind is unable to use those to its advantage; or if I have a counterpoint to each one. There’s nothing my brain wants to do aside from continue its current patterns. After all, it’s spent most of my formative years and life doing that, and it’s seen the results: I’m still alive.

At this point, I think the only way I can really be motivated to do anything is remind myself that I’m hard to destroy. Is that the key? Do I need to rewire my brain to one of confidence in order to be motivated? Do I need to be confident in my existence before I can be motivated in my projects? We’ll see. For the time being, I’m… well, as I write this, I’m stuck in dissociation and can’t even feel my fingers as I type. But for the time being, until I’m managing my PTSD better, I’m going to focus on completing my checklists and ignoring the future.

How To Take A Break From Your Writing

Before you take a break from your writing, you should first and foremost recognise that you need a break. We can’t be at 100% all the time. Engines need to be refuelled. Pencils need to be sharpened. Insert any analogy or metaphor you’d like; the fact of the matter is that we need breaks from everything we do. Creative projects are no different from taking a vacation from your job, going to sleep at the end of the day, or resting when you’re sick.

You might need a break if you experience any of these:

  • getting distracted easily from your project
  • becoming frustrated at your writing or writing progress
  • embarking on line edits prematurely
  • finding yourself doing other things, whether it’s work, school, family, hobbies, instead of writing
  • “burnout” of any kind

How To Take A Break

Look to the future to see when you might be busy.

It’s hard to focus on creative projects, especially writing, if you’re travelling, swamped with work, handling family issues, or doing a lot with your time that you can’t delegate to someone or address later. Whenever I’m pressed for time and energy, my creative projects and hobbies fall to the wayside. I can plan for breaks from my writing if I look ahead at my schedule. You might end up being too preoccupied with life to feel guilty for not writing on top of it—this is the benefit of planning a break from your writing. You’re going according to plan!

Assess your mental and emotional well-being: could you use a break?

My writing burnout manifests through worsened mental health. I get distracted, frustrated, and tired more easily and quickly. Writing is a lot of mental and emotional work! If you’re feeling less than your best, you should take a break. If your manuscript also feels like it’s dragging you down, or you’re doubting yourself and value as a writer, you should take a break.

Are you at a major transition in your writing? (Between drafts, embarking on revising, etc.)

Authors commonly leave their manuscripts for a few weeks before they revise. This is a break from the writing project! They’ve completed one phase of it (drafting) and are transitioning into another phase (revising). Revision itself has multiple phases. I’m a hardcore advocate for taking time away from your writing when you’re in-between major milestones in completing the project. You become saturated by your work and it’s hard to step back any other way. I like taking breaks after drafts (first draft, second draft, etc.) and before revisions. Doing so gives me the chance to clear my head of the story and meet it again with a fresher perspective. I also have the chance to research, tweak my outline, prepare for the next draft or revision, and do the admin side of writing. It’s a lot less fun than the act of writing, which is why I do it when I’m not focusing on the creative aspect!

Prepare For A Break

Set a place in your writing for you to return to.

A concrete space to pick up your work will make the break easier to come out of. Pick a place, such as at the beginning of an act or a new draft, for you to begin your break—and then return to.

Aim for a duration timeline and a finishing deadline.

This is why you need to look at your future schedule and plans! You can work around the stress of life’s demands. You can pick a day after the stress has subsided for you to return to your writing. This is also a great way to schedule out how long your break will be.

Gather your tools for your return: inspiration, motivation, review of your writing, etc.

It’s harder to pick up something than it is to set it down, especially when it’s a creative project like a book. While you have the time and energy now, compile anything that gets you into the zone or flow of your writing. For me, I use music playlists, moodboards, character worksheets, and an outline. Having these materials at the ready when you’re ready makes the break appear seamless, or at the very least more natural.

My Recent Writing Break

I took a five/six week break from my writing before I started revisions. I was aiming for less than eight weeks, and I knew I’d be moving at the end of April. I work quickly with edits and revisions (it’s part of why I offer editing services!), so I knew I could squeeze in revisions before I needed to start packing.

This break from my manuscript was forced on me, in a way, since I couldn’t continue writing the novel after I finished it. I could have picked up and started a new project, but I assessed my situation and health: this is my first complete novel, my mental health needed some TLC, and I’m a serial polygamist with my writing. With this manuscript, I decided to prioritise finishing one project before starting another.

If I hadn’t had the break in between drafting and revising, I would’ve dived blindly into edits. I’m enjoying the process right now, and that’s because I took the time to prepare for the break and how to return to it.

Thoughts On Feeling Inadequate

I intended to post this on Friday (the 7th), but in a stroke of cosmic irony, my inadequacy peaked that night. Writing this after the fact is… more powerful.

I hit a low point when it came to feeling valid as a human being. As in, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be alive. (Don’t worry, nothing happened aside from a crying session.) I felt inadequate in every aspect of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, romantically, sexually… The list goes on, but it was generally in that order.

There are so many ways to feel like you’re not good enough.

I shrunk one of my favourite shirts in the dryer, because my memory wasn’t good enough to remember it was in the wash; because my attention wasn’t good enough to look out for it when I changed the load over from the washer to the dryer; because my body wasn’t good enough to fit into a smaller size.

I had been feeling like crap for the entire day, but when it was 10:00pm and I was folding laundry, and there was one of my favourite shirts I’ve had for half a year… The domino toppled and so did all of the pent-up inadequacies I had lined up. It was one thing after another, a catalogue of how I wasn’t good enough at anything.

That was a few days ago, and I still haven’t picked up the dominoes and put them in a box. I haven’t lined up the things I’m good at. I haven’t lined up the reasons why I’m good enough. I haven’t had a chance to reflect on why I’m okay as a human being, and why I don’t have to be The Best to exist.

I’m going to play the mental illness card again: my PTSD makes me extra hard on myself. I’m significantly reduced compared to the “normal” or neurotypical standards. I feel like less of a person because of things that happened to me that I, for some reason, can’t let go of. How is it that things beyond my control come back to haunt me? Why does my brain hold on to things that hurt it? What do I need to do to make myself good enough to see that I’m good enough?

The standard to which I hold myself is unattainable. I can never reach it. Yet my mind and self-perception constantly reflect back to those standards, to the aspects that will make me worthy.

It’s times like these that I transcend my body in the worst possible way. Dissociation acts as my safety blanket, but it’s the same as starving yourself in order to avoid food poisoning. Haven’t we all learned that “abstinence-only” tactics aren’t the same as being informed about hazards? Living is a risk and dissociating is my way of avoiding risk. Dissociating is the closest I can get to separating from life without committing suicide.

It has been a significant amount of time since I said aloud, “I want to die,” and meant it. I hold back tears now as I look back at myself curled on the bed, weeping around the words. I see myself holding the worn out domino pieces I played with before therapy, before getting help, before putting effort into my well-being, before my diagnosis that explains so much of myself—before valuing myself even a marginal amount.

I’m better now, in the relative sense. It’s not like I’ve put away all the dominoes, but they’re no longer strewn, encircled, around me and keeping me hostage. They’re shoved to the side and I can see past them a little bit. But they’re still there. They’re still within grasp. I still want to set them up again and watch myself topple, because lining up these pieces and seeing how far the line goes seems to be the only thing I’m consistently good enough at doing.

Self-Editing Tips: Line Edits

Often, people are confused between line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Line editing is the most “creative” of the three: it deals with how the craft carries the story.

Line edits are typically what I myself get caught up in while writing, when my inner editor is more in control than the writer. I stress over word choice, phrasing, and always ask, “Is this the right way to write this?”

Copy editing and proofreading are separate from line editing, and they’re vastly more technical than line edits.

So how to do line edits?

First, you must read through your story. You should already have done this in your developmental edits—which come before any line edits—but reading through after the revisions is key for line editing. How you read the story is up to you: you can do a cold read-through, use digital formats, print off your text in order to attack with a red pen, make notes on paper or voice recording…

However you read through your post-substantive-edits story, you absolutely need to read through it. Either during or after your read-through, remember the tips below.

Remember your audience.

Demographics are important to your book. Age ranges have varying levels of diction. Picture books have a language level to them, as do adult fiction. While you read through your story, remember who you’re writing for. The level of propriety is up to you and your own factors, but line edits are the time to consider how your target reader will read your writing.

Consider your voice (but don’t force one).

When you read through your story, notice the lines that jump out to you—in a good way. These tend to be emblematic of your voice. When they jump out at you, it’s yourself waving back. You feel a connection to them. You can analyse however you like, but as long as you can recognise a sentence that feels like “you” and your writing, you’re on your way to developing your own writing voice. Don’t try to create a voice for yourself based on your preferences or an ideal style. We all have our own patterns in language and those fall into our writing and speaking.

Ask yourself, “What is this phrase, paragraph, or scene trying to convey?”

Your writing always has a purpose. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose or epic purpose of high stakes and emotion. While you do line edits, be aware of sentences that feel empty, rather than adding to the scene. These sentences are usually repetitive of earlier writing, or purely filler in order to get more words in.

Aim for specifics over flourishes.

The difference between creative phrasing and purple prose is one of specificity. When a writer can use a specific word in place of a lengthy, flowery phrase, they are able to focus on smaller, concrete details. Use specific words and you don’t have to overcompensate with more words than necessary. Filler words (like conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs) all add bulk instead of meaning. The passive voice is one way to add more words. Look for places in your writing where you over explain or over describe. Can you get more specific with your words?

Use minimal passive voice and “to be” verbs.

As mentioned before, filler words add bulk that muddle the writing. Passive voice, the elusive beast, thrives on them. Passive voice has a slow rhythm whereas active voice has a quick one. It’s up to you when you use active or passive, but remember how they flow. Here’s an example:

Active: Passive voice syntax needs more filler words.
Passive: The syntax of passive voice is filled with more words.

Your writing will need “to be” verbs (is/was, are/were) at times, but often, they are written in the passive voice, and are replaced when a sentence is rephrased. Let’s try that again: They show passive voice, and strong verbs replace them when writing is rephrased. A professor of mine described “to be” as an “equal sign” in the sentence. “X = Y” is the same as “X is Y.” See if you can change the verb or rephrase the sentence to remove “to be” for a more multifaceted sentence, and a verb that does more duty than an equal sign.

Read aloud.

You don’t need to do a dramatic reading. Even mumbling to yourself while you read will help you catch the flow of your words. We learn to speak before we learn how to write, and how we hear influences the way we read.

Reach out for opinions of other readers, writers, and editors!

This last tip doesn’t mean it should be after you’ve done everything else. Take to Twitter or a trusted friend and ask them about phrasing. Often, you’ll receive feedback you’d never have considered. For instance, due to my background in linguistics, I love giving feedback for my preferences in syntax, which is something not ever writer is in-tune with.

Your line edits look at word choice, sentence structure, paragraph structure, tone, and how you craft your writing. Ultimately, you’re editing in order to say something the best possible way.

Do you have any tips or tricks for how you do line edits? Share them below!