Tuesday, November 24, 2015


A popular post from April 2012 

By Josi. S Kilpack

Last week I posted about time cues and Kurt Kammeyer brought up the point of chronology the comments. He made an excellent point and while my post focused on the more minute details of time, his point was big picture. We all know how important the big picture of things are so I thought I'd give a little time to that part of storytelling--the how and when things happen on a big picture level.

Kurt's comment reminded me of  a situation I found myself in several years ago. I was at the galley stage of my second book (galleys are the typeset pages of your book sent to the author by the publisher just before the book goes to press. It's the authors last chance to proofread the story before it becomes an actual book.) and was reading along with red pen in hand when I realized that my character had an appointment on Tuesday. No big deal except that it had been Tuesday a few pages ago. I went back and re-read; sure enough I had two Tuesdays in a row. I fixed this, but it required me to smoosh two days worth of events into one day, which mixed up some other days. The galleys were bleeding with arrows and margin notes that eventually made sense of my brain cramp. Once that was resolved I continued forward only to realize I had two Thursday's later on in the same week.

Fixing the Thursday-neurosis was trickier and required more arrows and margin notes, but also a handwritten page to slide into the galleys themselves. (There is a lesson here on having good editors that catch these things for you, but it was my book so it's ultimately my responsibility to have gotten it right). The final book was okay--my week was sufficiently fixed--but each time I reflect on this I'm surprised I didn't figure it out in my own revising. I should have, it's not as though it was hiding, but I didn't. However, I did learn from it and nowadays I'm much more careful about tracking my chronology as I write.

I'm sure there are multiple ways to do this, but here are a few ideas:

*Use an online calendar to map out events as they happen. Gmail calendars allow you to color code events, which you could do to specify characters, and the events are then easy to change should they need to be shifted around. I'm sure other online calendars would be equally easy to use. I'm not sure how this would work with multiple books, but I'm sure someone clever out there could figure it out.

*Spreadsheet calendar. I'm not so good with spreadsheets, but some people are whizzes and can do all kinds of cool coding and auto-fill options that seem as though they could give you similar flexibility and ease of use as the online calendar option. If you're not a whiz, look to make whizzy friends--maybe they can help you.

*Make notes at the top of each chapter as you write, showing the date and time (if it's important) so that as you go through your book you can see your chronology laid out before you. This method keeps it all in one place, so you can see your date and times as you write/revise. The drawback of this method is that it can require a lot of scrolling if you get lost in regard to your timeline.

*Use an old calendar or printable calendar to fill in events by hand. This is my preferred method. It helps me to have a physical calendar I can write on. I always use pencil (different colored pencils for different storylines/characters) so I can change things around but I like being able to line up the months and look as them as I'm typing my story.

*Make index cards for your chapters or your scenes, putting the date and time (if important) in a location on the card that's consistent. Again, use pencil so things can be re-arranged, but this can be another visual way to lay things out and see how they are happening. This is an especially useful method if a lot happens in a short period of time. You can have a card for each event, rather than trying to squish a dozen events into one tiny square on a calendar.

If you're dealing with multiple storylines or characters, keep in mind that their chronology needs to still work in one timeline. It's very distracting to your reader if they read about what Bob did on Wednesday, then what Sandra was doing on Monday. This can get very tricky to write, especially when events are happening simultaneously, but the closer you can stick to the actual order of events, the more clear things stay to  your reader--confusing your reader is BAD (Say that six times). It's sometimes more advantageous to skip a scene or chapter than to go back and forth chronologically.

As you revise your work, double check your timing on things. Calculate distances traveled and how long it will take, double check the time of day in certain scenes, for instance if they have a fight at dinner and eight hours later she's knocking on the door to talk to him, it's two o'clock in the morning. Afford reasonable amounts of time for your characters to do what they need to do, and make sure you have enough time and chronology cues to keep the reader subconsciously aware of the timeline--something they don't have to think about, but is woven through the story in such a way that it feels automatic from them and leads them along as smoothly as possible.

Happy Writing!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Taking a Critique, Part 2

A popular post from July 2011, continued.

by Annette Lyon

A few weeks ago, I posted about how to take a critique.

That post has a lot of important points, so if you haven't read it, do. Then come back.

Now for the next step: actively using a critique. I'll use the term editor below when referring to the person who did your critique. That could be a critique group member, beta reader, editor, or anyone else who is giving you feedback.

1) Before changing anything, do an initial pass.
Read through the entire edit quickly, without making any changes. You'll get a simple overview of what's ahead. Take stock of what's been changed, suggested, noted. Get a feel for what kinds of changes your editor sees for the book (or chapter or scene) as a whole. If you don't know your editor personally, this also helps to give you a feel for their personality.

2) Set it aside and take a deep breath.
If you're anything like me, even if you can take a critique because you've built up thick skin, you'll still get butterflies (or, say, nausea) opening up and reading an edit for the first time. That feeling may not subside (and it may get worse) after that initial pass. Sometimes setting the work aside for a bit (an hour, a day, a week, whatever it takes) lets you come back without the nerves but with a clearer, more objective view. Making changes is so much easier when your stomach isn't an emotional knot.

3) Attack the small stuff first.
That means addressing anything that you can change in short spurts, whether it's punctuation, grammar, and other line-editing stuff, or fixing somewhat bigger stuff, like showing this scene instead of telling it, upping the characterization in that scene, and so on.

4) When you find "big stuff," skip it. For now.
You'll be cruising along on your edit, with pages behind you, when you hit chapter nine and a big huge comment that you know is valid but is going to require some serious changes. The changes could mean rewriting entire sections or going through the entire manuscript to fix the same problem in multiple pages. Whatever it is, "big stuff" can be overwhelming. It can also be discouraging. With any luck, you won't have more than about ten or so "big stuff" issues.

5) THEN attack the hairy parts.
There's nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a lot of work done, whether it's manuscript pages or notes in an electronic file. Relish in the victory of finishing that "easy" pass (because even the easy pass isn't easy; it is work). Now go back and deal with the bigger stuff, one issue at a time, as your creative brain (and, let's face it, your emotional stress detector) can take them. If you get stuck, set the work aside again and think through the big issue you're facing to find the best way to address it. Don't rush big fixes.

6) Go over it again.
When you've addressed every note and change in the edit, do a final pass. You may catch new problems you've inadvertently inserted into the text through your changes (time lines, character or location details, overall consistency). Fix them as you come across them.

And while you're at it, be sure to enjoy reading through a cleaner, better version of your work.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How to Take a Critique

A popular post from June 2011. 

by Annette Lyon

As many of our regular readers know, I've been part of a great critique group for a long time (since January of 2000). I've been published for 9 of those years, and I've been editing professionally for at least five of those. It's safe to say I've been on both sides of the "get your work torn apart" process.

With that in mind, here are a few guidelines for when you get feedback, whether it's from a beta reader, a critique group member, or an editor.

1) No matter what anyone says, it's still your book.
No one's opinion is law. Therefore: you don't have to change anything you don't want to.

Sometimes that realization is rather freeing.

It's also a pain in the neck, because things are so subjective in the arts. At times it would be nice to have a formula: X + Y = success! It's not quite like that.

That said:

2) Consider each piece of feedback seriously.
Even if you totally disagree with someone's suggestion about changing a section, don't dismiss the idea out of hand. Think about whether they have a valid point. Maybe their fix isn't the best idea, but their diagnosis is right on: something is indeed wrong with the section.

So maybe Mark wouldn't say what the editor suggested, but is there a chance his original dialog was flat or unmotivated? Is pace sagging here? Is that chapter confusing? Sometimes editors are great at spotting problems and suggesting solutions, but it's your job as the writer to figure out the best fix.

3) Don't argue, debate, or defend.
You've asked for (maybe even paid for!) an opinion. If you don't agree with it, fine. But insisting that your reader misread or misinterpreted your work, or insisting it must be this way or the reader is an idiot and missed this or that and here is why? That's not useful. (And it can be insulting; you asked for an opinion and got one.)

Okay, maybe the person is an idiot.

Or . . . maybe your reader missed a big point because you didn't write it effectively.

Figure out which it is, and, if necessary, get back to work. If getting an honest critique or edit stings too much and/or makes you want to whip out your defensive karate moves, there's a chance you're not ready for outside feedback quite yet.

4) A corollary: Just because something "really" is a certain way or "really" happened that way, doesn't mean it'll be believable.

For example: Some time ago, as I prepared to write a scene where a character dies, I read several first-person accounts from people who had loved ones die in similar circumstances. In my scene, I added the kinds of details that really happened to real people.

My critique group got hung up on a few of them because they didn't feel real.

What did I do? I could have insisted that "Some people really do go through it just like this." (And I could have proved it.)

Instead, I recognized that if those details pulled them out of the scene, if the moment didn't ring true, I needed to revise. I found other details (also real) that felt more true and familiar. The result was a much more powerful scene.

5) Don't go back to your editor to answer their "questions."
I put that in quotation marks, because if an editor writes notes like "Where are they?" or "What's the name of that museum?" or "I don't think such a building on that street exists, does it?" the editor is not really asking because they want an answer.

They're asking for the reader's benefit.

The editor is merely pointing out an issue for you as the writer to address: something is confusing, telly, unclear, or unbelievable. The question is a way for the editor to tell you that something isn't working. Questions give you, the writer, a direction to go.

I don't know of a single editor who ever waits for a client to send an email with, "Oh, by the way, the building you asked about is two blocks west of the City Bank on Main Street. It really exists. Here's a Google Map link to prove it."

(Thanks . . . that was totally keeping me up at night . . .)

In my experience, most editors are happy to clarify what they meant by a certain question if you aren't sure what the underlying issue is. But trust me; they aren't expecting you to answer those questions in any place except the actual manuscript, which the editor may never see again.

Answering a question (especially if it's one of those "See? I was right," issues) can rub the wrong way. Which leads to:

5) Resist correcting your editor.
We're human, so yes, we make mistakes, no matter how perfect we try to be. Whether it's a typo or fact we're off on . . . let it go. (Even if the mistake is phrased as a question, as in #4.)

Imagine this scenario (this exact situation hasn't happened, but it hearkens to real events): Your historical novel has a World War I battle and lists it as taking place in 1920. Your editor points out that the war had already ended by that point, with a note along the lines of, "WWI was over by then. I think the final battle was in 1919."

You recheck your facts and realize that whoops, the war was indeed over before 1920. But check it! The war ended in 1918, although the Treaty of Versailles wasn't signed until 1919.

Hah! Your editor was WRONG!

Sure, technically. But here's the deal: Your editor was correct in spotting your error. That's all that matters here. You were saved from looking bad. Returning with "Well, you were wrong too," won't elicit a thank you or warm fuzzies.

6) Have Reasonable Expectations. Or: Apply what you've learned. THEN come back.
Often, we editors get e-mails from clients saying that they learned so much from the 50 pages they had edited, whether it's about showing, exposition, dialog, or something else, and thank you!

We love that kind of feedback; helping writers to improve their work is what we're after.

Next step: apply what you've learned to the rest of the manuscript! Then ask for more editing.

Sometimes a writer wants to hand over 300 pages of a draft, pay for an edit, and end up with gold. That doesn't work. A single edit can take a manuscript only so many steps up. The better a piece is before an editor gets their hands on it, the higher level it'll be at the end of the edit. No matter how great the editor, coal cannot be turned into a diamond. Create a diamond, even in the rough, and the editor may be able to find the right cut and shape for it to sparkle!

This is, as we've mentioned on this blog before, why we often do manuscripts in chunks: it gives the writer the chance to learn from the edits of the early pages and apply those lessons so that later edits will be even more effective.

And finally, because it bears repeating:

No matter what anyone says, it's still your book.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Using Social Media Effectively

A popular post from February 2012 and still very relevant today. 

by Annette Lyon

Social media is here. And for better or worse, it's here to stay. Writers who hope to reach potential readers need to learn how to use it effectively.

What "effectively" means will be different for every writer. With more and more social media outlets popping up all the time, it's easy to feel daunted. (I have yet to learn much about Pinterest, because right now it's just one more thing.)

While social media is important to your platform, it carries a danger: You can easily spend so much time networking that you don't get around to writing.

So learn what you can about different social media sites. Decide what works best for you. Focus on those and leave the others behind. For example, if blogging is more than you think you can handle, then don't blog.

I personally blog (here and at my own blog), and I rely on Facebook and Twitter for much of my networking. When I do them right, they don't suck up much time from my day. I don't play games of Facebook, for example. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family as well as to keep in contact with readers.

I use Twitter for several things, among them, to keep up on the news. I follow several news streams, and I often find out about breaking news before it hits TV. I follow industry professionals like editors and agents. I follow other writers, great writing resources, topics that interest me, and so forth. I even follow some people simply because they're entertaining and make me laugh.

That's what I do when I hang out on Twitter and Facebook.

But what do I actually post on there?
I am no expert on social media, but I have learned several things along the way:

Content Is King.
If you have lame tweets ("I'm petting my cat"), no one will want to follow you. Watch other people's streams. see what interests you and figure out what parts of your life others might find interesting.

Share links to articles or other online content that you find interesting. This includes forwarding links or tweets from those you follow. Doing so creates good will with the person whose work you're sharing, and it gives your followers good content. Win-win.

Be real.
Followers can (and will) smell fake a mile away and unfollow/unfriend in a heartbeat.

Be social.
In other words, be part of the conversation. Reply to people, especially if they initiate contact. Add your personal commentary on topics you find interesting and relevant. Don't be an island.

Update live.
Some applications let you pre-schedule your tweets. As many people attach their Facebook status updates to their Twitter feeds, both get updated at the same time with no work from you.

That may be great for a few things, say reminding people you'll be on TV in ten minutes (you can't tweet that from the set or while driving), but in general, try to really be there behind the keyboard. Interact. This goes back to being REAL.

Do not post about religion and politics.
Really. Ever. Just don't go there.

Forget yourself and your work. Mostly.
Sure, you'd like the whole social media thing to result in sales. It could. But if you get sales from social media, it'll almost certainly be a secondary effect because first you created a relationship.

Keep this in mind: the relationship comes first. (See below.) Your work and sales come a very distant second.

In practical terms, this means that the vast majority of your updates should not be about your latest release. Constant tweets and status updates about "Get my first three chapters free!" or, "Buy my book! It's got lots of 5-star reviews!" become nothing but annoying noise. You'll quickly sound like a used-car salesman, and the unfollows will be huge.

Sure, go ahead and mention revisions or release dates. If they're the exception, not the rule, people will actually notice and care.

ABOVE ALL: Create relationships.
This doesn't mean you have to be everyone's best friend, but try to be kind and aware of who is out there, who is following, who is re-tweeting your stuff, and so forth. Be gracious.

A story as an example of what not to do:
Once I followed a writer on Twitter who immediately sent me a thank you in a direct message. Odd, I thought, but okay. Neat for her to thank all new followers. I guess.

But then her stream turned into lots of self-promotion, constant requests for re-tweets (but she didn't retweet anything unrelated to her), links to her latest posts, and little else. I unfollowed.

I don't remember exactly why, but later I followed her again, maybe trying to give her another shot. Right off, I got an almost identical direct message to the first, which was phrased as if we were meeting for the first time. She obviously didn't remember that I'd followed her before (or left comments on her blog or had any other contact).

To make matters worse, every few weeks, I got a notification that she was following me. Remember: you get notifications only for new followers. Meaning she'd followed and unfollowed me a number of times. I dug around and discovered that she had a bag of tricks for increasing her follower count. Among them was regularly using an app that let you drop followers who weren't valuable (however it determined that). She'd apparently dropped me and added me about six times, all while I followed and never dropped her.

This all left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. I've since unfollowed her and will not follow again.

And you can be darn sure I won't be buying her books or recommending her to anyone else.

I've had similar experiences on Facebook, with people making comments on my status or my wall with little more than, "Hey, check out my book!" In some cases, it's been phrased a bit more cleverly, like, "Who's your favorite wizard? You might find a new favorite in TITLE!" (Which is, of course, their book.)

If Twitter and Facebook are too much, don't stress it. But if you want to use them, learn how to use them effectively and then be real. Above all, don't be a used car salesman. Everyone hates those people, and we all run the other direction.

Additional note:

To learn more about Twitter, how it works, and how to use it as a writer, see this interview with Christina Katz on the topic. She's also someone to follow: @TheWriterMama

A great resource for learning about social media, specifically for writers, is Kristen Lamb's We Are Not Alone: A Writer's Guide to Social Media. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenLambTX

Oh, and on Twitter I'm @AnnetteLyon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Importance of Plot

A popular post from February 2013

by Julie Wright

I am a character driven writer. For me, everything starts with that one character who says something, or thinks something, or feels something huge. I am also what some have termed a discovery writer. Outlining is something I've tried, and failed, at doing.What's the point of writing it all down if you already know the ending?

My messy methods work for me. I have pages of scribbled notes tucked into filing cabinets and several pages more frantically typed into documents on my hard drive. Character sketches, dialogue lines, careers for my characters, ways to poison people, how to knock a guy out in one clean punch.

It's like the makings of a perfect dinner. All the ingredients are there waiting to be blended, molded, wrapped into something tasty.

Only there is no recipe.

As an aside, it's funny I'm making a food metaphor since I don't cook. EVER. I once told my husband I don't read recipes because they don't have a plot.

Which makes this even funnier because that is exactly what I wanted to talk about today. Plot. your recipe *is* your plot. It is how you blend your characters, dialogue, clever means of escape, cool careers, and settings.

An egg by itself is a little boring, but with the right ingredients and a good recipe, it can be pulled into an amazing creme brulee. That is what your plot does. It pulls all your ingredients together so they work.

I've done a lot of reading and editing lately, and I've found that the books that hook me immediately are the ones with a clear plot structure. They are the ones that immediately pose a major dramatic question. I keep turning pages because I MUST discover the answer. The books I've put down are the ones that meander all over the place. Sure they have several pairs of pretty words strung together, but that doesn't make them good stories. The ugly truth of writing is that at any point, the reader can say, "Meh, not interested."

The major dramatic question is what drives the story: Will the detective discover who the killer is before he strikes again? Will Earth survive the alien attack? Will the family who bought that new house be able to overcome the ghost who already resides there? Will Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy ever realize they love each other? (of course they will!)

Many genres have a "formula" to the big dramatic question. Romance is one of those genres that is very formulaic. There isn't anything wrong with that. It would kinda ruin the genre if it didn't. Imagine if you spent all that time with the couple and all their sexual tension and banter, and they didn't ever get together. You'd feel totally ripped off. What if the detective never finds the killer and he strikes again and again and again, but no one ever stops him? That's a crummy story.

So, it isn't about knowing the protagonist will eventually get what they want, it's about the how. it's the twists and turns, the missteps and failures.

Your protagonists must have things getting in the way of them getting what they want. They need to try and fail. They need to try and fail several times. A few years ago, I seriously read a 500+ page book about everything going right for the protagonist. The protagonist didn't have to overcome or grow in any way. I was judging a contest so there was no mercy. I couldn't put it down. In order to be a fair judge I had to read every. single. painful. word.

After the protagonist tries and fails, tries and fails, they get to the climax, that defining moment where it all comes together. Where the heroine finally kisses her hero and knows he belongs to her. Where the detective has finally stopped the killer and saved the next victim just in time.

Dan Wells taught an amazing class about plot structure. Go view it. (ignore the irritating music at the beginning and end.) He taught that  knowing where you want to end up helps you as a writer to discover how to get there. If you want your character to end one way, you need to start them at the polar opposite of where they end. If you want her to end with love, you need her to start with absolutely no prospects of love, destined to be a creepy, old cat lady who trips young lovers with her cane as they walk past her on the pier. Then you add plot twists. Places in the story that change who this character is.

Even if you're like me, a discovery writer, you need to know how you plan on the story ending, so that you can know how to start it accurately. You need to know the defining moments that help drive the story to that eventual ending.

So now I'm curious, What camp do you fit in: discovery writers or the outliners?

Friday, October 23, 2015

When Does a Metaphor Become a Metaphor Cliche?

A popular post from April 2012

By Josi S. Kilpack

I've heard it said that metaphor cliches are victims of their own success, that because they are SO good at what they do, they are bad. Make's sense, right? Yeah, it took me a minute too, so I'm going to try my best to explain it.

A metaphor is the epitome of show don't tell or figurative writing--it is using words (which typically 'tell) to 'show' something, often combining something commonly understood to whatever it is the writer wants to describe. For example instead of saying bright yellow coat you say "sunshine yellow coat" or instead of saying excruciatingly thin you say "spaghetti-noodle thin." You're using the commonality of one thing to 'show' the details of something else. You are saying something IS something else--the coat IS yellow, the girl IS thin. Some more complex metaphors are things like "She was laughter and sunshine," or "the night is thick with hatred."

A simile is similar (ha, punny) to a metaphor except that it uses "like" or "as" within it's description. So it might be "As yellow as sunshine" or "thin like a spaghetti noodle". You get a similar 'show', but you use 'like' or 'as' to help you make the point. You are saying something is MUCH LIKE something else. They can get complex as well, for instance "She made me feel as light as laughter and as bright as sunshine" or "the feeling of hatred was as thick as peanut butter" Now, there are some exceptions to the 'like/as' factor of similes, but I'm not going to get into that because I don't really get it. For me, understanding that if I use "like" or "as" in a comparison description, it's a simile.

Both metaphors and similes are wonderful things in fiction--they allow us to manipulate words and make them into pictures. They make our stories visual, which means we're engaging multiple senses and the more senses you can engage, the more real your story feels. So, we shall all agree that metaphors and similes are wonderful things.

Now that we are in agreement, let us move on like a Vegas bride the morning after, shall we?

A metaphor cliche, then, is a really, really good metaphor or simile that people like so much they have used it to death and therefore we no longer even think about what it means. For example "rail thin" when you hear that, what do you think about? Do you actually think about the rail of a chair, which is where the description came from? No, you just think thin. How about "Icing on the cake", for me, I just think of a frosted cake. What it actually means is adding something good to something that's already wonderful, but it's used so often that we kind of skim over it which means we don't end up with the visual after all which then defeats the purpose of having used the metaphor or simile.

It can be very difficult to see our own metaphor cliches. Typically, this isn't something you worry about too much in your first draft, but when you go back to your revision, be sure to take the time to note the metaphors and similes you've used and make sure they are doing their job, instead of lounging in the back of the room flirting with your muse and resting on their laurels of overuse. They continue to work well in dialogue, however, because we talk in cliches all the time.

A fun thing to do when you do in fact encounter these cliches, is to think of ways you can re-invent them. For instance, instead of "Fog as thick as pea soup" consider "Fog as thick as milk left on the counter for three days" or "Fog as thick as pond scum" or "Fog as thick as Aunt Harriet's  cold cream that hadn't worked as well as she'd hoped it would." Instead of "Thinking outside the box" you go with "Thinking outside the kiddie pool" or "Thinking outside the Congressional Hearing". Changing up a cliche is a fun play on the familiar and makes you look very clever.

So, in summary, we want our words to be OUR words, and we do that by holding them up to the light  and looking at them from every angle until we are content to put our name on it and claim it as our own.

And, although this post is about metaphor cliches, there are all kinds of other cliches--word choices we don't even think of the meaning of. Many of them are peppered throughout this post, but since I was focusing on metaphor cliches, I'm going to let them slide, just this once. :-)

Happy Writing!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Important Tips for Self-Editing

A popular post from October 2012

by Annette Lyon

I taught a class on self-editing at UVU's annual Book Academy conference. When I first got the assignment, I wondered if I could fill a whole hour.

Then I started taking notes on common things I regularly see in my freelance work. Next thing I knew, I was cramming information into the workshop, and we still had more to cover when it ended.

Below are just a few tips from that class. I may give more in the future.

Be Specific
I've talked about specificity here before. (Read that post! It's a good one, if I say so myself.) But it's a topic that needs mentioning again, because it's something we writers easily forget.

When Lisa Mangum, a senior editor at Deseret Book (and great novelist) heard I was teaching the self-editing class, she told me to make sure to mention specificity. But she didn't use that term.

Instead, she called it "strong nouns and verbs."

(I'd add strong adjectives to that list, with the caution to use them sparingly. Think of Mr. Keating's lesson on tired versus exhausted.)

The stronger your nouns and verbs, the stronger your story will be. So the man didn't walk; he sauntered. The woman isn't driving a car; it's a Jeep. The path isn't lined with flowers, but with columbine.

Read the original post in the link above for a more detailed explanation and examples about specificity.

Cut the Dead Wood
This means repetitive words, ones that weak, or are in some other way unnecessary.

Here are a few examples of dead wood and how to trim it for crisp writing:

in order to = to
due to the fact that = because
a long period of time = a long time OR a long period
he nodded silently = he nodded (I dare you to nod loudly)
were going to = would
he knew that = he knew
all of the things = everything
the tragic drowning death =the tragic drowning (if someone drowns, we know they're dead)
her hair hung down = her hair hung (implies down)
she spoke with an impatient tone of voice = she spoke with an impatient tone (implies of voice) OR she spoke impatiently (But don't use too many adverbs. See below.)
they stood up = they stood

Sensory Duh Moments
This is another form of dead wood, one that's easy to overlook.

He nodded his head (as opposed to nodding his what, elbow?)
She blinked her eyes (as opposed to blinking her toe?)

And so on. I see this kind of dead wood with gestures, wiping tears, squinting, tasting, and more. If your character is using one of their five senses, great! Just don't be redundant in pointing out which one; we can figure it out.

Watch Your Adverbs
Here's another one Lisa asked me to mention, so take note of it.

Some people eschew all adverbs. I'm not in that camp. But I do believe that about 80% of the time, the narrative and dialog can and should do enough showing that we don't need an adverb for clarity. Look at your adverbs and ask yourself if there's a more powerful way to say the same thing without using them.

(Hint: Maybe you can use a stronger noun and/or a stronger verb.)

Last One for Today: Avoid Passive Voice
Yet another issue Lisa mentioned.

Contrary to popular belief, passive voice is not just any sentence with a word like was in it. A to-be verb (is, was, were, am, etc.) can signal passive voice, but not always. I've written about passive voice before as well, so if you're unsure what it is, go read that post.

One thing I'd add is that passive voice can be a great tool when it's intentionally used to obscure who did something or for a character to avoid blame. Before trying that, be sure you know what passive voice is and how to use it.

I'll delve into more self-editing tips another time. As always, don't panic about these things in the drafting stage. Let your muse carry you then. Later, when it's time to don the editing and revision cap, pull out your notes and apply these tips to strengthen your work.