Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Hunt

The Word Hunt, to be specific.

Like all writers, I tend to over use certain words. Often when I’m reading over my WIPs, a certain word pulls me out of the story, and I bet if it happens to me it would happen to a reader. I make a list of these words (currently at a hundred) and I use Word’s Find function to track them down for a second look. They’re either too vague (thing, stuff), easy to overuse (just, that) or I just keep seeing them and they bug me (flush, face). Plus there’s also general words (have, be) that I have to make sure work.

1. Strong words are great!

2. But don’t overuse them. Not every word needs necessitates needs to be strong. If it crystalizes a sentence, yay! Keep it. But if it’s clunky, out of voice, or just there because you don’t want a weaker word, don’t bother.

3. Don’t eliminate a word if you’re replacing it with a syllable that’s another common word. For example, don’t replace “might” with “could” or “large” with “huge”. It defeats the whole purpose of the word hunt.

4. You might find you’ve over used a very general verb like give, have, or is. There’s really not much you can do about that except look at the sentences as a whole and decide whether the entire thing is weak. If so, rewrite it.

5. Find the words you love using and get rid of as many as you can. As I’ve said many times before (and as you’ve probably read elsewhere), that and just are some of the worst offenders. But by no means are they the only ones. Every writer (from a poll of me) has a few words s/he uses more than necessary.

Now if I could only get myself to follow these rules…


  1. I was just thinking about my 'go to' words this morning. I decided what I would try is making a list of other, good words and posting them near my writing space. I know skimming lists like that helps me vary my word and phrasing choices. I just need to get busy and DO it. LOL

  2. It also depends upon the voice you're using. A first person voice for a younger character ought to use simpler, more straight forward words.

  3. I have to give myself permission to use those words while writing the first draft, though. I find I freeze up when I let inner editor out then. (Of course, first drafts are just hard for me, generally.)

  4. I'm like LIz, I'm less picky during the first draft. Later on it's a whole different story.

  5. Oh, yeah. I'm an overwriter. What I need to use is the delete button. Erase. Erase. Erase. :) Happy hunting! Christy

  6. I use the Find/Highlight system, too. I use "look" and "just" alot! If I try too hard during the writing, though, I lose my momentum, so I wait for the editing track down those pesky overused words!

  7. That's a word I try to avoid using altogether.


Please validate me.