There is an astonishing similarity between editing and spring gardening. In both, you can work happily for a couple hours and a disinterested observer, one’s partner for instance, may not see much difference. But you do. For instance:
- The weeds choking a perennial: adjectives and adverbs, most often weeds.
- And if that perennial is languishing: probably you need a stronger, active, more specific noun or verb.
- The Japanese fern, lovely, but growing too near the hosta: a scene that needs to be someplace else, or a word, a “said,” for example, that needs moving.
- Prune the rampant shrub: too many syllables in that phrase, or a “the” when there really needs to be “a.” Or if you’ve made your point in the dialogue line, don’t explain it in the tag. Or the sentence is just too long and floppy.
- Too many volunteer hellebore volunteers sprouting near the mother plant: useless echoes of a word you need sprouting up in subsequent lines.
- Cute little pansies around a scruffy, nowhere shrub, so fix the shrub and forget the pansies: make the scene stronger, more visual and cut out the fluffy adjectives, adverbs or explanatory narration.
- Wrong plant in the wrong place: oops, wrong character name, continuity error, fact error, or just a useless “see I did my research” fact that doesn’t add to the story.
- And so forth.