Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Editing Our Thoughts as Carefully as Our Words by Emily Conrad

fountain pen writing

I have a critique partner who rightly gets after me for using “weasel words.”

As she reviewed my latest manuscript, she drew my attention again and again to words like was and it. Reminded to choose my words more carefully, I noticed others she didn’t point out as often—that, just, finally, and now.

Realizing I’d let my attention to varied, vibrant language slip, I used the search function to highlight every one of those six words in the entire manuscript, then reviewed every. Single. Instance. Of each of them.

Some, I left. Many, I rewrote.

The task took considerable time, but the manuscript shines for the effort. (To get a feel for the impact, consider whether that sentence would carry the same punch if I’d written: It was time-consuming, but the manuscript shines because I did it. Now multiply that by an entire novel.)

After I tamed the weasels in my work-in-progress, however, I noticed another kind of weasel posing an even bigger threat to my writing.

Weasel thoughts.

You know the ones:

God isn’t using me.

I’m all on my own.

My manuscripts will never be accepted by an agent or editor.

I could never write like she does.

And on and on.
fountain pen with ink dot

These negative thoughts, like words we so easily overuse, creep in when we’re not vigilant.

If we let the issue go unaddressed, those weasels grow bigger and multiply, fed by each rejection, setback, and disappointment. Soon, they run as rampant in our minds as weasel words can in our manuscripts.

The more we think them, the more we believe them. The more we believe them, the less we’ll write.

So, as we strive to improve in our writing craft, let’s also carefully manage our thoughts.

The trick with editing a manuscript for weasel words is not simply to delete every sentence containing one but, rather, to reword the line for the strongest impact.

With weasel thoughts, instead of rewording to convey the same meaning, we need to replace the negative with a faith-filled positive.

God isn’t using me becomes God has good purposes for me. (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10)

I’m all on my own becomes The Lord goes with me. (Matthew 28:20, Joshua 1:9)

My manuscripts will never get accepted by an agent or editor becomes God will open the right doors for me at the right time. (Psalm 138:8, 1 Peter 5:6)

I could never write like she does becomes I have been gifted in a unique way for a unique purpose. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
Fountain pen that's written the word love

Weasel words will overrun our writing. Weasel thoughts will prevent us from writing in the first place. Both can prove to be challenging opponents, but you're not in this journey alone.

Friends, both inside and outside the writing world, can help pinpoint weasel thoughts and might be able to point you to Scripture that can combat the problem.

And, of course, prayer should be an important part of the editing process--whether we're talking weasel words or thoughts. God is concerned with every aspect of our lives, and invites us to bring our cares to Him.

Weasels are no match for the One who can do all things.

P.S. Want some help finding the weasel words in your manuscript? Kregel editor Janyre Tromp created a list of 75 words to look out for in your work. As she wisely warns us, the key isn’t to delete them all, but to ensure that each instance is necessary. You can snag a copy (and benefit from the wisdom of two professional editors in other areas, too) by joining the Facebook group Editing Insiders with Janyre and Sarah. Once you’re in, search the group’s posts with the word “download” to find the link.


Weasel words will overrun our writing. Weasel thoughts will prevent us from writing in the first place. @emilyrconrad shares thoughts on #editing out both as a #Christianwriter #seriouslywrite

Weasel thoughts. The more we think them, the more we believe them. The more we believe them, the less we’ll write. @emilyrconrad #writing #christianfiction #seriouslywrite

Negative thoughts, like words we so easily overuse, creep in when we’re not vigilant. @emilyrconrad #seriouslywrite #writetip #writing

Photo credits
Fountain pen writing photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Pen with ink dot photo by Nicolas Thomas on Unsplash

Love fountain pen photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Graphics created on Canva.com

Emily Conrad headshotEmily Conrad writes Christian romance and a blog to encourage women of faith. Her debut novel, Justice, released from Pelican Book Group in 2018. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence Justice is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.



The love of a lifetime, a quest for justice, and redemption that can only be found by faith.

Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it.

Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake.

If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both.

Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?

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  1. Love, love, love this! Thanks, Emily!

    1. So glad it resonated with you, Dawn! Thanks for reading!

  2. Weasel thoughts are far more insidious than words and far more difficult to edit out of our brains. Great way to connect a common writer problem with our self-perception. Thankful we have the truth in scripture to replace those weasel thoughts!

    1. So true, Mary! Editing them out is a lifelong process. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  3. Praying those negative weasel words will not be in my thoughts or my writing today. :-)

  4. Great post, Emily.
    I'm very familiar with weasel words (unfortunately, LOL) but hadn't considered weasel thoughts---wow!
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
    Blessings, Patti Jo

    1. Ha, well, you're in good company on the weasel words! Thanks for reading!


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