Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Was, Was Not

I’m currently going through my novel for unnecessary words, particularly that fiend was. It appears in my novel close to 1400 times out of 74,000 words. Not a big deal but still the biggest offender.

There are other words I use too much: could/would/should, have, got, began and started to name a few. I know I can’t get rid of all of them or else I’ll kill my voice and make the novel read like I’m avoiding these words. Because they are necessary sometimes. For example: “her embrace was close to suffocating.” I could just shorten it (Note to self: add just to the list) to “her embrace suffocated him) but there’s no character in that.

It’s good to pare down, contract, get rid of repeat offenders. But don’t go too far or you’ll wind up watering down your voice to the point where it isn’t interesting. Judgment is required. One of the reasons first novels are often so bad is because people have not developed that good-or-bad sense yet. I honestly believe I have improved with each one, but of course, improving doesn't necessarily equal satisfactory...

Yes, I know. It's fairly brief today. Succinctness is a rare and valuable trait, one I often strive for and fail to achieve. 


  1. Yeah, I'm getting so succinct that I often edit what I SAY in my head to find the shortest sentence possible. Um, yeah, it's turning into an illness, lol!!

  2. I wrote my WIP in first person present tense. I didn't realize I used passive verbs until my CPs pointed it out to me. Now I'm editing the first half of my book and I'm having to make those verbs active. Fun stuff;)

  3. How about the awful and sometimes terrifying word "that?" It's sneaky and conniving and always wants to wheedle its way into our prose. Nice blog you have here, by the way!

  4. I found the same thing. If I over edit, I'm a fiend to my voice. :D Just teasing. I am in love with 'that'. A critique partner noted I like 'gulp' a lot, too. I'm sure there are others.

  5. It's hard to figure out your own writing tics. When you do, keep a list posted to the front of your monitor :P


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