Mark Twain said, "If you catch an adjective, kill it!"
STEIN ON WRITING: A Book Review
I never even heard of the guy until one day someone on Facebook mentioned Stein's revision techniques. I happen to be in the process of such endeavors so I decided to look him up. I am glad I did. I sampled a few chapters specifically related to editing and revisions. Here is what I got from my quick read through---
Characters need to be well-rounded and have a credible conflict.
Evaluate the scenes in each chapter and book. Which are weakest. Which are strongest. Delete the weakest scenes entirely. (I add: unless you need the scene, then strengthen it.)
List the 3 actions that are crucial to the story. Consider what motivations caused those actions. Remove motivations that are too far-fetched or are just plain poor action starters. Ensure the motivations fit the character.
Look at the first page of your story. Imagine your favorite author wrote it. Now read it. Does it make you want to read on? If not, improve your hook.
The Goal of the first paragraph is:
1) To create curiosity about the character or a relationship.
2) To introduce a setting.
3) To lend resonance to the story.
General Revisions: Read through looking for anything that takes you out of the story. Make notes about things that don’t make sense or need more (or less) detail.
Reduce or delete narration that is not about the current scene.
Cut everything that feels unnecessary. Check the speed or flow of the storytelling.
Remove words such as poor, very, quite, really, well, so. And reduce was, had, and . . . essentially any word that you know you use too often.
Remove excessive adverbs and adjectives. When you have used two or more to describe something, evaluate which is strongest and delete the weaker one(s).
Rearrange dialog tags from time to time. Place them in front when it is unclear who is speaking.
Remove cliché’s, unless spoken and meant to be obvious. Otherwise, learn to create your own similes, metaphors, and sayings.
Rework sentences for clarity.
Avoid purple prose. (What? But I love purple!)
Ensure you have a visual on every page.
Try to have more he said/she said over…muttered, screamed, deflected, wailed, etc. (I personally do not subscribe to having only he said/she said tags.)
Lastly, does the ending offer satisfaction?
And I got all of this from only three chapters! I will definitely return to glean something from the balance of his book. I highly recommend checking out Stein on Writing before your next editing session.