I believe it was EB White who told William Strunk, Jr. (Elements of Style) to "Omit needless words."
I've taken that advice to heart. Extra words can bog down the pace and make the reading experience bumpy. I have a whole list of words I look for in final revisions to make sure there's not a plague of them. Some of those are (drumroll please)...
of appeared to that looked almost after
at me seemed to when nodded just heard
at him down while very well saw
at her up then really so felt
began to that as nearly before
None of these words are "wrong". But just like adverbs, we tend to resort to them to get our point across a little too blatantly. <---Adverb!! (gasp) These words can often be omitted to smooth out a sentence. If you come across words like appeared, seemed, or began to in your writing, you can usually reword to make the sentence more active. And if we're in a specific character's POV, we usually don't need to be told they saw, felt, or heard. If you're looking out a window, do you think to yourself, "I'm looking at the neighbor's dog eating our garbage for the fourteenth time."?
Examples: The force field appeared to wobble. (weaker)
The force field wobbled. (stronger)
Jayden saw Serenya sitting at the piano in her pretty red dress. (weaker)
Serenya sat at the piano in her pretty red dress. (stronger)
And now for a little example of how I take out unneeded actions. Take this little excerpt from Serenya's Song, Chapter 13, for instance (in Jayden's POV):
The path brightened as we rode out of the trees. Serenya reined in her horse at the edge of the clearing. I halted Trick beside her. She smiled and inclined her head toward the scenery in front of us. I’d seen it this morning from another vantage point, but now the afternoon sun and the appreciation in Serenya’s eyes brought the place to life. The huge vineyard striped the rolling hills. Rows of trellises loaded with corbet vines treated my eyes to a sea of golden fall color.
I looked at Serenya. She(Serenya) wore a proud smile. “I know you’ve already seen it, but isn’t it beautiful here?”“It’s remarkable.”She dismounted and held a hand above her eyes to block the sun. “I love this spot. The view is perfect. We just had the harvest a month ago. Time to open last year’s casks.”“Great timing with the Opera coming.”“Exactly,” she answered with a laugh.I slid out of the saddle(.) and admired the view as well.“You love Summerwind, don’t you?” She nodded.“I can’t imagine a more beautiful place. Of course, you’ve probably seen all sorts of things I’ll never see.”
Here, I've taken out some actions that are not necessary. I think Stephen King (in On Writing) referred to these as "stage directions". First of all, you don't have to mention characters looking at each other that much, unless the look is really key to the scene. Saying Serenya wore a proud smile SHOWS us that Jayden is looking at her. Secondly, you can see from the first paragraph that Jayden is admiring the view, so the line "and admired the view as well" isn't really necessary. Third, my characters start nodding so much that they look like bobble heads, so things like "She nodded" are often unnecessary and can be inferred by the reader from the dialogue alone.
***Remember: Your goal as a writer is for the reader to see your story, not your words.
And in other news, I got the BEST REVIEW EVER for A Ranger's Tale on Goodreads.
Mommaseymour says: "Wow!!! I loved it. All I have to say is, why haven't I heard of this book before? It is a must read people!"
But that's not all. She went on to write a longer review, including pictures and video! Let's just say I got to drool on Orlando Bloom all over again! Yes, Orlando Bloom = BEST REVIEW EVER. You gotta check it out: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/273058900#