You get a note from a critique partner or editor friend that says, “Cut this filter.”
And you are like, Huh? What?
What’s a filter?
Filters are stuff you write that takes us out of the Main Character’s head for a nanosecond. Usually they aren’t needed. You don’t say to yourself, “I notice it’s raining.” It just rains.
When I came out of the store, I noticed it was raining.
When I came out of the store, the rain was coming down in sheets.
“I noticed” is the filter. We – the readers – are “I.” We notice whatever the MC notices, feels what she feels, etc. Saying I noticed in a story is like narrating to yourself in real life. Vagrants on New York City street corners do that, not your character.
Your story is more reader-centric and immersing without as many filters.
Some are okay; most can go – and improve the reading experience.
It’s no big deal that you have a lot in a first or even second draft, but it’s worth learning what they are and spotting them, and coming up with ways to change them out. Next book, you’ll use a lot fewer – BUT if you need them to get the first draft out of your head and onto the page, fine.
Just make some to-do lists, so you can get the story down and THEN go back and fix it up.
Filter words to cut.
Adverbs to cut (as many as possible).
Dialogue tags (as many as possible).
Crutch words (Yeah, when you cut those tags, you used the same three words as replacements. Now you have another task to do. You’re welcome.)
How to not go insane doing all this: When you finish the first draft of a book, take a month off from it. Seriously. A whole month where you don’t even peek at your writing baby. If you peek, the 30-day timer starts over.
Then go through – a little each day – and take the list items out. If you waited a month, you’ll see LOTS of places to tweak the story and make it tighter. Stuff you’d never have seen if you didn’t let it rest for a month.