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Do You Fluff and Filter?

caroline-tBy Caroline T

Being a genre fiction editor, I am aware that word count concern often hovers in the back of a writer’s brain. Very true for romance writers in particular as some publishing houses have strict guidelines: and traditional publishers tend to shy away from longer manuscripts due to production costs. So what do I look for in a manuscript to trim word count? The Fluff and Filter.

Once a broad canvas content edit and subsequent revisions have been completed, my next review of the material comes in the form of a line by line edit. And this is where I hit pay dirt. Writers tend to have favorite words or what I refer to as “fluff.” The words themselves don’t improve the sentence. They aren’t critical for a reveal or to propel action. They plump up. They fluff. But they aren’t needed. In many instances the heavy repetition isn’t noticed until the deletions are highlighted in the edit. And the writer is surprised. Examples: however, suddenly, really, just, always, maybe, might, quickly, probably, all, pull, back, something. I list thirteen here. If a manuscript has to be cut down in size, the removal of these words alone will make a noticeable change.

A line edit involves the tightening up of sentences: saying the same thing but with fewer words. Removing “fluff” is a big part of this. Another target? “Filter” words.

Words that distance the reader from the character and the character’s point of view.

Point of view, or perspective, is critical in genre fiction because the protagonist is taking us on a journey. We must be on board one hundred percent. The reader has to bond, sympathize and root for the protagonist. The more layers between the two, the higher the risk of losing the reader’s interest. Examples; consider, seem, hope, know, wonder, realize, thought. Or put this way: She realized she was in love with him. The filter word realized adds a layer of distance. This is the narrator talking to the reader, not the protagonist talking to the reader. Better: She was in love with him. This is a simple example, and it is often way more complex than this.

You have one chance to make a great first impression with agents and editors. Avoid Fluff and Filter.


Caroline T‘s editorial services are geared towards unpublished writers looking to break into digital or traditional book publishing as well as published authors interested in changing genres, and authors with backlist titles needing updates.

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