July 11th, I heard back from the Beta Reader that had volunteered to work with me at Balticon.
My newest Beta Reader gave me a lot of feedback–and a lot of encouragement. They also mentioned that I used hedge words. A Lot.
What’s a hedge word? It’s “a mitigating word or sound used to lessen the impact of an utterance. Typically, they are adjectives or adverbs, but can also consist of clauses.”*
Hedge words are the writing equivalent of “up speak” where you raise your voice at the end of the sentence to make it sound like a question.
There were over 350 instances of “a bit” that were completely unnecessary.
“As the hall led further underground, my stride loosened a bit.”
“Pushing myself up, I winced a bit.”
The phrase ‘a bit’ adds nothing to either sentence. They each make sense and have more impact without it.
That wasn’t the only way I was hedging.
I jerked my head back to stare at my crappy sketch I was just making worse with every line.
The cave air seemed just as cool and musty to me as usual.
Greeting me was the scent of my dad’s amazing meatballs, probably baking in the oven with noodles, three cheeses, and the sweet and savory sauce drenching everything.
I didn’t want to know too much about the cleansing process that happens to those of us who are actually marked.
Seemed can be replaced with ‘was’. But all the rest can easily be removed. I left some hedge words in, typically in dialogue, but most could be left behind with no remorse.
Word Original Removed Left
a bit 350 307 43
just 470 305 165
really 105 75 30
seem 61 44 17
probably 57 28 29
a little 78 49 19
much 108 40 68
Just removing the hedge words cut 848 words from my novel. Once I cleaned up the sentences around them? I was down over 1,250 words.
My novel is getting tidier.