I didn’t want to take my laptop to Vegas, so I printed out the first rough draft of Virginia Kate Saga Book2. I read through it and made notes – and part of that process of making notes was noticing words I used over and over that were unnecessary (that sentence is a mouthful and sure could be written tighter – I should fix that –I really should . . . la tee dah).
Filler words. Tic words. We all use them; although, the more you practice your craft and Recognize what you are saying and how you are writing your prose, the more you will be aware of these filler or unnecessary or tic words. Yet, they do creep in when we are writing as we speak (or as the character speaks?), especially when “free-writing” or writing that first draft, or writing in a casual loose way as we do in blog posts, or letters/emails, etcetera.
Some “tic” words are: little, just, that, so, then, very, really. It doesn’t mean you never use these words, it means to make sure you aren’t peppering your manuscript with unnecessary words that, well, aren’t necessary. Do a search for “so” or “just” or “very” and see how many come up.
I did a search for “felt” and was amazed at how many times Virginia Kate said she felt something instead of showing it. Sure, sometimes “felt” fits, but in more than half the incidences I used “felt” I was able to delete it and sometimes several words along with it and create a stronger image.
I read something a few weeks ago, and it was peppered with “suddenly” – Suddenly, someone grabbed her arm; suddenly, the wind came; suddenly, she ran to meet her friend, suddenly, the car rounded the corner. Look at your manuscript—do you really need that “suddenly” when the action and/or dialogue itself can show immediacy? (Later in another post I want to talk about ING and LY words.)
We all hear/say “started to;” I wrote “started to” up until months ago when it “started to” blare out at me—as in: I started to run. I started to eat. I started to drive my car. Look for “started to” in your manuscript –can it be changed to a more direct action? I took out “started to” from my manuscripts (unless one or two sneaked in there unnoticed). It’s just one of those phrases that “started to” bother me and I can’t tell you why. Use it if you want, but use it sparingly.
What about those similes? “Her hair was like an old frayed rope . . .” that’s a simile – when you use “like a” or “as a.” When I go through my manuscript, I watch for overuse of simile and metaphor—and I tend to like to use those things quite a bit. But I’m tougher on similes – those “like a . . .”phrases.
Read your manuscript with a critical eye and tighten it, tighten it. Sure, we’ll always have “extra filler words” or use too many similes or use passive phrasing instead of direct action or could write in a better way (look at this blog post for gawds sake!); after all, who is Perfect? And if we spend all of our time creating Perfection in our manuscripts, we’ll never be able to say, “I’m done . . . ” However, the more you know, the more power you have with your words and language to make images, your work, come alive–to carry your audience along on a ride. You want to hear, “I couldn’t put down your book…” You don’t want your reader snagging on snaggibles. Know the rules so you can break them. Be aware of “tic” words so you can eliminate them. Practice your craft. Read your ms with a critical eye, once you get that first draft down.
This post is teeming with ways to tighten my prose and get rid of unnecessary words and write in a more direct way and yada yada blah blah and blah! But, I’m sure you all will forgive me as I fly by – whoooooshhhhh!
What are your “tic” words or phrases? Or, what are your “pet peeves” when reading someone’s work?