When you get back to it again, ask yourself a few questions. Does it still give you that rosy glow you felt when you finished writing itor do you now feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction? If the latter is the case (and it almost certainly should be) but you still cant work out exactly whats wrong, you can always start with little things. What appear to you as small faults will look like huge ones to an editor, who will instantly be dragged out of your story by them. If you cant keep her focused on the story (editors of childrens books are nearly always women, so Ill stick with feminine pronouns) she will definitely reject it.
Books (and even short stories) for children are becoming shorter as the years pass, which means todays childrens writers must use fewer words than in previous generations. Therefore, every word must count. So, assuming you didnt find (or have fixed) any problems with the actual storywrong time lapses, sudden changes in a characters eye colour, contradictions and inconsistencies (such as having a characters hands tied up in one scene and in the next having the character wave them around without someone having first untied them), etc.you can now get rid of redundancies. Here are a few things to look for:
a bit, a little, about, actually, almost, almost like, already, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, fairly, finally, here, highly, just, just then, kind of, mostly, nearly, now, practically, pretty, quite, rather, really, seemed, seems, simply, slightly, so, somehow, somewhat, somewhat like, sort of, suddenly, then, there, truly, utterly, very.
Your sentence will usually be improved if you delete any of the above words. Try it. You can always go back to the original sentence if you feel it really needs the word. (Sometimes it does!) Other phrases to look for are begin to and start to. In most cases, for instance, its better to simply have your character run instead of start to run.
In She cuddled the tiny little kitten close, little is redundant.
Many adverbs are redundant, especially when theyre used to tell how something was spoken.
In all of the following sentences the adverbs are redundant because its obvious how the words were spoken.
The adverbs in whispered softly and shouted (or screamed) loudly are also redundant. Unless the whisper is loud enough for everyone to hear it, a whisper is by definition soft, and you certainly cant scream softly!
Other Often Redundant Words
are that and had. Try deleting them. If the sentence doesnt make sense you can always revert to the original. Especially avoid using had had. Its very ugly. Rewrite your sentence to avoid it.
In She nodded her head, the words her head are redundant: you cant nod anything else but your head.
Would and could are often unnecessary, too. For instance, rather than She would have expected to find nobody home, try She expected to find nobody home. Instead of He could sense that nobody believed him, try He sensed nobody believed him. If the sentence works better with the would or could you can always put it back.
Look for every use of the word was, which often indicates use of the passive (she was told not to be late) instead of active voice (he told her not to be late). Try the same exercise with were. Active isnt always the best voice, of course. If you feel it works better with the passive voice, by all means leave it.
Go through your manuscript yet again looking for words ending in ly. See if you can delete them. If you feel the sentence needs the adverb, by all means leave it. If adjectives and adverbs were as redundant as some dopey self-styled writing experts would have us believe, they wouldnt exist at all.
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