Monday, March 31, 2008

Hints and Tips on How to Edit Fantasy Novels

Words To Avoid

The successful Fantasy author needs to know the words to avoid and how to find adequate replacements. Here are some hints and tips to help the writer when polishing their Fantasy novel.

Creative writers always try to avoid adverbs. Adverbs usually end in ‘ly’ and are words that add meaning to a verb.


Walk slowly. Run quickly. Speak softly. Gently touch. Shout loudly.


There are better ways to say the same thing. Find stronger verbs to replace these.


Stroll. Sprint. Whisper. Caress. Yell.

Resist the temptation to add adverbs to dialogue tags. Beware of saying things twice.


He snarled angrily. She whispered softly. He yawned sleepily.


Note how the adverb isn’t needed.

Snarl demonstrates anger. The adverb isn’t needed.

She whispered softly. Whispered indicates softly spoken.

He yawned sleepily. Yawned is indicative of being tired.

Other Words to Avoid

Had. That. Up. Down. Really. Almost. Just. So.

These words are used without thought, but often do little to improve a sentence. When a Fantasy author is polishing their manuscript, they should go through and remove any case where these words are unnecessary.

‘Had’ places the action in the past. ‘That’ is often unnecessary. To bring immediacy to their writing a Fantasy authors will strive to keep action and interest in the present.

Up and down are often added when not needed. Really, unless in dialogue is unnecessary. Almost, again is not acceptable unless in dialogue, since the narrator should know things. ‘Almost’ is indecisive and will frustrate the reader. He was almost as tall. He’s shorter. She could almost see… again she couldn’t see.

Just and so are just so superfluous.


The damsel had watched the villain leap up onto the horse that had been tied up to the hitching rail outside the tavern.

The damsel was really frightened, watching the fire that almost burned the tavern down. She thought it was just so lucky no one that had been in the inn was hurt.


This is a bit obvious, but the idea is clear. Remove all the words that should be avoided. See how to improve poor writing by culling words we tend to ignore as we write.


The damsel watched the villain leap onto the horse tied to the hitching rail outside the tavern.

The damsel was frightened, watching the fire burn the tavern. She thought it was lucky no one in the inn was hurt.


Another cull and sentence rewrite can improve this example.


The damsel watched the villain leap onto the horse tied outside the tavern.

As the tavern burned, she shook with fright. Relief washed over her when no one in the inn was hurt. Her thudding heart quieted and trembling limbs stilled.


This example has tried to ‘show’ the reader how she felt rather than ‘tell’ them.

‘She was frightened’, is telling. ‘She thought it was lucky’, is telling.

The words to avoid that will prevent the author falling into the ‘telling’ not ‘showing’ trap are: felt, thought, saw, and was.

The Fantasy author, when writing in third limited omniscient should try to ‘see’ action and gauge emotions in characters and scenes from what their main character can see and understand. They will use gestures and mannerisms, as well as dialogue to give the reader insight.

Try this exercise yourself. Have a list of words you want to avoid and keep adding to it as you master the craft of writing. Soon they will disappear from your manuscript and your writing will become stronger, compelling and more attractive to a publisher.

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