Edit Your Garden

Hello dear readers,

Michelle here, I am thrilled to introduce you to the author of “The Pink Cage.” She is actually doing a guest post on my blog….words beggar belief! She is offering us good advice on creative writing in this post. So grab a coffee, sit back, read and allow yourself to dream of what if.

Reki Sheki*

Hi all,

The Pink Cage       Derbhile  here. Recently, I have been privileged with helping some people edit their books and prepare their manuscripts for submission to publishers. Editing is very satisfying, because you’re enhancing people’s work and giving them a chance to display themselves in the best possible light. And you’re giving them a perspective on their work that they can’t have, because they’re too closely involved with it.

       Good editing is a bit like gardening. You cut back the dead wood to allow the flowers to bloom. People worry that they’ll cut away the flowers along with the weeds. But it is possible to edit your manuscript without mangling it, just by making subtle language changes.

     Most writers tend to overwrite, as they indulge their love affair with the English language and let themselves be carried along by a stream of ideas. If that’s you, here’s how you cut your manuscript down to size.

Kill Your Darlings. If your manuscript is in danger of drowning in words, you’ll need to follow this famous advice from American writer William Faulkner. Kill off characters and sub plots that weigh your book down and detract from its central purpose.

Adjectives and Adverbs: Newsflash -you don’t need nearly as many of these as you think. Readers will still grasp your point. They want to work at your text; they want to imagine your world for themselves. Trust that a few well chosen words will do the work of many.

Repeated Words: Without realising it, you’ll find yourself repeating certain crutch words. This is a particular problem in first-person narratives, with the relentless use of ‘I.’ Taking the advice of my creative writing tutor, I cut down my use of the word ‘I’ in my own book and the manuscript shrank by around 8,000 words.

Clunky Sentences: Trimming down your sentences is another way to reduce your word count. Instead of writing ‘Jane pulled me close and held me in a tight embrace,’ try, ‘Jane hugged me tight.’ Same meaning, greater impact. Some writers have the opposite problem. They find it hard to make their texts long enough. This is a more difficult problem to resolve as you have less room for manoeuvre. But there are a couple of things you can do.

Bulk Up. If your novel’s too short, chances are you haven’t given the reader the detail they need to imagine your world. Describing that world adds texture to your work and makes it live.
Put in Extra Scenes: Every writer has spare material. Don’t be afraid to draw on it. It’ll give more body to your work and complement what’s there. Just be careful that you don’t invent extra scenes and plots just for the sake of it though.

If you’d like to gain that extra perspective and bounce any editing concerns off me, I’ll be happy to talk to you. You can give me a call on 087 6959799/051 854426 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie. Or read my blog, www.writerlyderv.wordpress.com
Best wishes


*My mom, Joan Maher Moloney, studied Reki years before I ever did. She was constantly flicking her fingers at people, especially when she was a car front seat passenger. This annoyed some of my sisters. So much so that the phrase Reki Sheki was born, it’s a Moloney phrase. We now say it in jest or or as an adjective in relation to calm cool people. Or in my case to send you Reki.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. irishminx says:


    Please see link girls & congrats to you both xox


  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for all the comments. I have read nearly all of Derbhile's blog. I printed it up and read it every day, found it very useful



  3. derekflynn says:

    Great advice, Derbhile. Especially on the adjectives and adverbs. It's been said a million times but it's the old 'Show, don't tell' mantra. Readers don't want you to TELL them what a character is feeling, they want you to SHOW them.


  4. 120 Socks says:

    Brill post, very enjoyable and informative!


  5. I'm just starting out in the literary world but that was very informative. I'm trying to gather all the info I can as I really don't have a clue what I'm doing Lol
    I've only one piece on my blog that I painstakingly created yesterday ( the blog not the post) but it's a start so thanks for the tips they appreciated.


  6. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the comment. I read her blog all the time and was delighted when we discussed the guest blog.

    Beir Bua


  7. Anonymous says:


    I have read Derbhile before so I was happy to see she was doing a guest post here.

    Some great points here, very useful post.

    Thanks for sharing



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