Monday Classroom: Tic Words, Similes, Ignoring Advice until . . .

Morning, y’all. Time for Monday Classroom!

Filler words. Tic words. Most all of us use them; although, the more you practice your craft and Recognize/Pay Attention to what you are writing/saying and how you are crafting your prose, the more you will be aware of filler or unnecessary or tic words. Yet, they do creep in when we are writing as we naturally speak (or as the character speaks), especially when “free-writing” that first draft, or writing in a casual loose way as we do in blog posts, or letters, et cetera. But the idea I try to push to you in my Monday Classroom posts is for things to become “second nature” – instinctual – in your writing, so that it carries over naturally into everything you do (mostly! :-D).

Some “tic” words: little, just, that, so, then, very, really—to name a few. 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—sometimes I use them on purpose, but it’s the “on purpose” that makes the difference, you see? In Family Graces, Adin says “very really much” – on purpose, though I tried not to do this so often it became distracting. In the South we often use “a little bit” or other colloquialisms—but again, “on purpose,” and as well, again, using them in a way that doesn’t distract your reader by overuse, or mindless use.

In Tender Graces/Secret Graces (oh dear, did I do it for Family Graces, erkity dang I don’t remember!) I did a search for “felt” and was amazed at how many times Virginia Kate said she felt something instead of showing the action of her “feeling it.” Sure, sometimes “felt” fits, but in many of the incidences I used “felt,” I was able to delete it along with several other words and instead make the action active instead of passive. How much better to have the character actually feel something rather than saying the character felt it, right?

Kathryn felt her stomach growling but she wanted to finish this blog post and besides she sure ate a lot over the weekend for her birthday (*birthday plug here even though she is already on cloud nine with birthday wishes on FB/twitter/email/phone/mail, but she’s greedy-guts – just a danged ole greedy guts who can’t get enough attention–dang her hide!*). *Wishes had more of those waffles GMR prepared for her yesterday–and notice the word “prepared” instead of “made,” huh? huh? notice?*

Kathryn’s stomach growled, but . . .

I once read a book 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. Consider your manuscript—do you really need that “suddenly” when the action and/or dialogue itself can show immediacy? Virginia Kate has a “VK’ism” where she says, “All a sudden,” and like Adin’s “very really much” above, it’s On Purpose.  But, yeah, watch those “suddenly’s,” y’all, and instead create the Action itself.

What about those similes? (which are often clichés if we aren’t careful): “Her hair was like an old frayed rope and she re-climbed it to get away from that prince dude she thought was her savior, but the tower was actually not so bad after all . . . .” Simile – when you use “like a” or “as a.” When I go through my manuscript, I really do try to watch for overuse of simile and metaphor—because boy did/do I tend to over-use them (hopes I do not now—wonders if should check latest manuscript but it’s already in copy-editing stage, dang! Wonders if remembered to check all these things in latest manuscript–dang.). I will note here that I use “as if” and “as” much more then “like” – as in, example:

Kat typed like she wasn’t in a hurry but she was because her stomach growled mean and hateful—her guts are in an uproar, shouting and stamping and storming the castle because the Prince is pissed off that the Repunz rejected him.

I use “as if” instead: Kat typed as if (or as though) she wasn’t in a hurry . . .

Create a Good Draft with freedom and abandon (unless you are an organizational type person who cannot write in this way). Personally, I ignore advice until I have a good solid Draft; I mean a GOOD solid DraftPersonally I think we writers give out too much advice, but dang, we love talking about language and writing! And really, we want to put a fire in your belly; at least I want to put a fire in your belly! 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; 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 . . . ” and then do the Happy Dance of Whoop Whoop Whooop as we gaze lovingly at our Completed Manuscript. However, the more you know, the more power you have to manipulate your words and the language. Right? Right!

Once again, as I always write to you: Know the rules so you can break them. Be aware of “tic” words. Practice your craft. Read with a critical eye. Pay Attention.

What are your “tic” words or phrases? Will you have a fire in your belly?


39 thoughts on “Monday Classroom: Tic Words, Similes, Ignoring Advice until . . .

  1. I’m glad you added the ‘on purpose’ part, ’cause I do loves me some verbal tics. Since I my world is archaic, I have to be careful with the words ‘so’ and ‘even.’ They’re often unnecessary qualifiers, but they can add flavor. So, having said that, a little can go a long way. Just like delicious birthday cake or celebratory waffles (shamelessly offering you more b-day love – Happy day-after-birthday!) too much of one spice can overwhelm the experience.

    I love these Monday Classrooms! (no pressure – a wise friend once told me to make sure your blogging is fun. ;) )

  2. Just spent the weekend knocking out, had, knew, know, it, felt, looked, and a gazillion more tic words. Pesky things! Thanks for the lesson, and Happy Birthday for yesterday and next year. :D X

    • Oh! the “looked” thang and the “watched” thang – I have to do searches for those to make sure I don’t have the character looking and watching too much – lawd!

  3. Glad you had a wuuuuuuuunnnnnnderful birthday weekend!! :)

    I have to watch out for adverbs and passive “had” sentences. They flow from my fingers ‘like warm honey from a jar’. Tee hee!! Yeah, I don’t do the metaphors usually but I just read a book that was sooooooo full of them it wore me out. If something was grainy it was “as grainy as sand on a beach that never felt the touch of the waves”. If something was blue, it was “blue like the yarn her mama used the day she made some such something or other…” Anyway, you get the point. WAY too much of it. LOL!

    • aw lawd -I’ve read those, too — and the “things in threes” used to be my tic and one I really have to watch (is that verbals? there’s a name and I forgot it) – anyway, like this: Her hands were warm, soft, and wrinkled. His tie was old, stained, and too long. Her dog played yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

      Things in threes. Lawd.

  4. Hi Kat – Happy Birthday for a long drawn out congratulatory time with lots of extra waffles during the week – sound rather good … I keep learning from all of you wonderful blogging authors .. and no doubt let lots of tics in .. so be it!! But poor grammar is a sad thing to come across .. double check all .. Have a great week .. cheers Hilary

    • and I am laughing my arse off because I never remember to double check my TITLE and the title had: Similie instead of Simile — so much for paying attention *laughing at myself!*

      I must read the title, too; I must read the title too; I must read the title, too!

  5. Great post. I’m in the middle of such revisions for my book on Smashwords. Removing the ‘tics’ makes the flow and reading much easier. I can’t believe how many ‘suddenly’s, as well as other annoying adverbs, were littering my story. I had several Oxford comma corrections to make too. And when the story gets cleaned up some, the ‘just’s and ‘little’s jump out at you in 3D. Thanks for the help.

  6. Kat,
    Hi. Happy birthday wishes to you.

    Nice post today. I call these helper words and when I find them in my MS they have to go. I can’t count how many times my MC saw someone coming or looked at a sunset. Those are insidious. Adverbs are another big pet peeve. I held my tongue when someone on Writer Unboxed wrote a post concluding that adverbs are okay. I used four or five in my entire MS and I was really (that word again) annoyed to use that many of them. Thanks again and I hope you had a great birthday.

    • I had a wonderful birthday – thank you! *smiling*

      Yup, I have to strike out the “looked/watched” in mine, too, and still catch myself doing this at times! lawd!

  7. I don’t know what my tic words are in fiction! That probably means I’ve got lots of them, huh? In non-fiction “however” is one of mine. Can there be tic punctuation? I REALLY like semi-colons. The first draft of my thesis was probably mostly repetitions of “however” separated by semi-colons. My poor adviser.

    But I really liked what you said about not going for Perfection, so here’s a real craft-question; how do you locate “good enough” if it isn’t at “Perfection”? How do you know when to stop revising?

    • I like semi-colons too – an English instructor once told me I used them like a “tic” *laugh*

      As for “good enough” – sometimes my deadlines decide that for me *laugh* — otherwise . . . it’s magic. Haw! Well, maybe not – more like “Enough. Enough. ENOUGH!”

  8. There goes Miz Kat stompin’ on the ‘The Rule of Three’ , Think of all the tension one can build with three words and a few commas. I’m old and wrinkly. Give me two easy words and a handy conjunction any day. Fun article, Kat. You do good all hyped up on birthday waffles.

        • Wait – Gerunds
          A verbal is a word formed from a verb but functioning as a different part of speech.

          A gerund is a verbal ending in -ing that functions as a noun.

          I still can’t remember what the triplett words are – dang!

        • It must be simply “triplets,” Molly, as that’s all I can find to match this “rule of three!”

          I put that other comment in the wrong place – where somewhere I thought they were verbals and then thought, “Nope, not verbal, that’s something entirely different!”

  9. I just can’t stop using the word “just.” It’s Just so handy, and is so often Just the word I need to make a sentence sit Just right on the ear. Now that I think about it, I think I have an over strong affection for “Still” as well.

    Two words I avoid are “Suddenly & Reality,” not so much because I have a problem with overuse, but my agent will forever cross them out with a notation “Don’t use this word,” every time they creep into my manuscripts. I don’t really know why, but I trust her enough to take heed.

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