All About Editing: Filter words

Dear readers,

Today’s post is all about filter words, what they are, how to find them, how to get rid of them, and how this can improve your prose. This is the second installment of a little series of posts all about editing. You can find the first installment (all about plot) here.

These tips are not all my own; they are things that I’ve learned either at university, or through research.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am still in the process of editing my first novel, Juice of Half a Lemon, before I start submitting it. I finished the first draft in April of 2017, and have since progressed to draft number 8. Along the way, I have discovered many recurring flaws in my writing, one of which is overusing filter words.

Filter words are verbs like saw, heard, knew, and felt that distance the reader from the action of the story by putting a character between them.

I’ve always thought of it like this: filtering forces the reader to see the action from behind the character, rather than seeing it through the character’s eyes.

For example,

He saw the woman take a knife out of her bag.

In this sentence, saw is a filter word. This forces the reader to see the character see the woman, rather than just seeing the woman for themselves. Without filtering, the action feels more immediate.

The woman took a knife out of her bag.

I’ve found that the most common filter words in my writing are knew and felt.

*She knew she couldn’t tell Edward her real name. —-> She couldn’t tell Edward her real name.

*She felt an ant crawl up her arm. —-> An ant crawled up her arm.

Filtering relates back to the old rule that we’ve all heard a million times, show don’t tell. Instead of telling the reader what the character sees, knows, feels, tastes, or hears, show them the action and let them see, know, taste, or hear it themselves.

If you’re past your structural edits and are ready to clean up your prose on a line level, try checking your manuscript for filter words. The search tool is your best friend.

Ctrl + F : saw, heard, knew, felt, tasted, could see, could hear, and could feel

Removing these filter words tightened my prose, improved the sentence flow, reduced the word count, and made the story’s action feel a lot more immediate.

I wish you all the best with your manuscript edits; I know it can be a grueling process.

Thanks for reading,

Tamara Drazic

 

 

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Reaching the Halfway Point

Hi Everyone,

I’ve finally reached the halfway point in my manuscript. It’s so hard to describe how I feel about it. On one hand, when I scroll through the pages I feel like I’ll never be able to do it all again. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t possibly already be halfway there. I think  I’m kind of afraid of reaching the end, having to cut everything that doesn’t need to be there, and then finding myself all the way back at square one. I know that the real challenge is going to come after the first draft is finished.

First drafts are free to do whatever they want. Finished manuscripts are rational, and cut-throat. First drafts know that they’re not good enough, and they’re fine with that because they know they can improve. Finished manuscripts are anxious that they’re still not good enough at their best.

Although I’m a little terrified, I’m still so extremely excited at the prospect of actually finishing the first draft of this story, and I’m trying not to overthink the whole process. In four days I will be flying off to my residency in Iceland, to finish this thing once and for all. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re all having an amazing 2017 so far.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

My First Writer’s Residency

Dear readers,

I woke up to some incredible news this morning. I found out that I’ve been accepted into the “Gullkistan Residency for Creative People” in Iceland for March next year. A couple of weeks ago I wrote to them about the novel I’m currently working on, and the plan I have for the month in residence, and now it’s all happening. I have wanted to visit Iceland for almost three years, and I can’t believe that I will be there for a month, doing what I love. I can’t wait to finish the first draft of my manuscript and hold it in my hands. Suddenly the end of my university degree doesn’t seem so scary.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and leaving such lovely comments; I can’t wait to take you along on this exciting path with me. Stay tuned for failed photos of the Northern Lights.

 

I hope something amazing happens for you this week.

All the best,

Tamara

P.S. The October issue of Spinebind goes live the day after tomorrow! It’s been a big weekend.