Lessons From A Forgotten Manuscript

computer_keys_keyboard_282093_hSo I’m editing a book I wrote years ago and it’s a little painful. I mean if you want to see if you’ve grown as a writer, I recommend you pick up an older book you haven’t looked at in a while and see how much it makes you cringe. I still love the story in this book and have faith in it, but geez! I made such obvious mistakes! First thing I had to do when I opened the file was change all of the quotes from straight quotes to curly quotes. The issues were that basic at times!

So here are the top 5 things I’ve gotten better at since I wrote this:

1. Messing up words

I’ve found an embarrassing amount of times where I have ‘you’re’ instead of ‘your’ and ‘to’ instead of ‘too’. Seriously? I really thought I was at least passed this hurtle when I wrote this. I’m going to blame this on the fact that this book hasn’t been near as edited as some of my others. Yeah that’s it. That makes me feel better.

2. Improper punctuation

Now this is one I knew I would find. I remember learning more about how you punctuate at the end of a quote so I’m not surprised that this book has it wrong, but it seems so obvious and is such second nature to me now that it’s painful to have to correct it over and over again.

3. Useless ‘she said’ moments

Almost every single time one of my characters speaks it’s followed by ‘he said’ or ‘she said’. I see how stilted it sounds now and am cutting many of them out.

4. Too much detail

This book has far too many moments of “Alyssa walked upstairs and turned on the hallway light before heading to her bedroom where she walked to her dresser. There she opened the top drawer and dug through until she found a pair of pajamas. Then she went to the bathroom and changed before brushing her teeth and washing her face. After that she walked back to her room and climbed into bed.’ Wow? Really? What was I thinking? No one cares about all that. That is easily cut to ‘After getting changing into pajamas, Alyssa climbed into bed and reached for her book.’ Much better.

5. The words I overuse

I’ve become aware of these words over the years and can catch them as I’m writing sometimes. I still end up finding them when I edit, but not as much as in this book. My personal list of overused words includes: a bit, just, wide, only, it’s (when it should be its), was, enough, and way more I can’t think of right now. My characters also sigh and smile like it’s their job. They smile widely a lot. Way too much.

Overall, I still love this story and there are parts that I read and I’m shocked at how wonderfully I worded something. That makes all the stupid little mistakes worthwhile. I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with this book, but it deserves to be cleaned up just in case.

Have you ever picked up something you wrote a while ago? Has your writing changed a lot?

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