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Self-Editing Tip 2: Strike Through Vague Language! (With Writing Prompts)


Tip #2.

When self-editing, your Strikethrough key loves vague language.

A) “I was completely obsessed with Nick.”

(Mmk, common enough…we know this person is obsessed, but what does obsession look like? Strikeout that previous sentence and then ask, How can we say this more dramatically, with language the evokes, excites, stirs? Raise some brows, my dears…)

B) “He wove me on thick to that skinny body.”

Oooh. 😉

Other common phrases people use to describe an intense connection:

I loved him so much.
We were inseparable. 
He drove me insane.

In conversation, these are perfectly fine things to say! In literature, they are non-specific and plain!!

Challenge yourself with something s p i c y.  

Begin with a question when digging into specifics: What did he do that made you love him so much? Is it something he didn’t do? Is it an essence? A look? A tenderness that he only expressed to his youngest sister that made him soften into the man that you recognized? What makes you hold on? Give me something specific. An example, scenario. If this person was a spice, what spice would he/she be? Even if you don’t think it’s possible, try to conjure this person using one word. 

I loved him so much.

In one word: telescope.

(I’m thinking of “A Walk to Remember”—the movie, because I never read the book. ha. That bigass telescope Shane West’s character built for Mandy Moore’s character. The telescope represented something that he threw himself into for months, so she could see deeper into space, beyond them, into the changing sky. They could marvel together, during the short time they had. It showed his care and trust for her, his patience in building something that would make her happy. It earned him respect from Mandy Moore’s Dad. It’s what he’d have to remember her by, after Mandy Moore’s character died. ….Are you crying yet? Lol.)

I’ll give you a list. Try writing about the person you love, or are obsessed with, using one of these objects, or trigger words. (In fiction, do this for your characters).

  • Record-player
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Chemistry book
  • Teflon
  • Dirty fingernails
  • Train
  • Overdue Library Book
  • Turmeric

Take a word from this list and write about one of the concepts below.

galaxy“Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”
― Margaret Atwood, Der blinde Mörder

PROMPT: How has touch provided one set of information, and words, another? What tension does that cause in the body itself? What messages have you ignored, that you can look back on and pin-point exactly when they entered your awareness? Were there signs you willingly missed? Were there signs you wish you would have seen sooner? Create a conversation using the body as a precarious messenger.

[Choose one of the words from above, and write about this concept.]

Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don’t go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”
― Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

PROMPT: Turn an emotion or idea (hopelessness, vanity, marriage) into a room you could walk into. What objects are near you? What color are the walls? Is there a door? Multiple doors? Are the windows open or locked? Who comes into this room with you? Can you escape? Do you want to? Tell me about the t-shirts in your closet, if there is a closet. What is peculiar about this room? Did something show up that you’ve never seen before? What are the sounds in this room? Are there any aromas? What does this room inspire in you? Do you want to rip up all the pillows, or dive into them, like they were a leaf pile, and you were a kid again?

[Choose one of the words from above, and write about this concept.]


And another quote, just because it’s brilliant:

“Potential has a shelf-life.” —Margaret Atwood. 


For more guidance, please check yesterday’s post about striking through the lazy bits of your story!

For PERSONALIZED guidance, please e-mail at with “LAZY BITS” as the subject! Thank you!

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