I posted on FB the other day how I was knee deep in edits for ACT OF TRUST, Book 2 in the Second Chances Series. Several people expressed interest in my list of “Throw-Away Words.” Margie Lawson provided the list in its original form of about 40 words. I’ve used it over the years with my books and have found new words to add. Now I have about 75 words or phrases.
The whole process of writing a book is fascinating and varies from author to author. It’s kind of magical. I finished the main writing of ACT OF TRUST, which means the story is all there. I read it completely through, catching things and making changes. Then I went back through using my computer spelling/grammar check. I felt pretty good about the result.
Until I analyzed with the THROW-AWAY Words. Yeee, gods! How many times can I use the word “so”? It turns out I used it 184 times in a book of 70,500 words.
For me the process is use the Find key to pull up each offending usage and then figure out can I “just” delete it (“just” is one of those word”) or decide if is there a better way to write what I wanted to say.
“Just” showed up 175 times. I got it down to 18 times. (You’ll notice I used it in the paragraph above. Sometimes you can get away with it.) Oh, and I reduced “so” from 184 to 34.
“Really” is another offending word when over used. It appeared 68 times and now is only 3. Because, “really,” is this a word that adds content? “I really want to go.” “I want to go.” ??? Sometimes yes, but most times, no.
“As” went from 184 to 45/ “As if” went from 85 to 5. Granted some of those “as ifs” went to “like” which we can also over use, but mostly it required rewriting.
Margie Lawson teaches to write tight and to write fresh. Analyzing your word usage is one way to reach that tightness. Fresh can be learned, but it’s mostly a gift!
Other word usages include: “thought,” “wondered,” “worried,” and “knew” and their various forms. These words pull the reader out of the character’s deep point of view. (POV) If you’re already in the character’s head, the reader knows the character is “thinking” whatever. While I haven’t gotten to them working down my list, I’m pretty good about catching those as I write. (Of course, I “thought” I was pretty good with “really”, and “just.”) LOL That’s why it’s good to have a cheat sheet to keep yourself honest.
Here’s another thing I’ve discovered in using this tool. Different books have different favorite words. My characters cussed quite a bit in TRUTH BE TOLD. Each character used all the “cuss” words. I decided I could be more definitive with the characters by assigning each of them his/her favorite cuss word. Did you notice that when you read TBT?
In ACT OF TRUST, I don’t have much cussing at all, so it’s not really an issue. But oh, my goodness, I’ve created three new words for my list with this book.
“Sounds like” and “sounds good” took up residence. And then “nice” jumped out at me. This is nothing but lazy writing to say something is “nice.” What the heck does that mean? I’ve already fixed some of those when I’ve passed by looking at something else on the list. I discovered these in going over the 9 other items I’ve reviewed. I’ll push the “find” button for them, too.
Yes, you caught that. I’ve only done 9 of them over the course of two very hard days. Fortunately, many of the words on the list, I don’t use anymore or very little. I used “actually” 7 times and got it to 5 . “Usually” showed up 6 times and I took it to 2. That of course, is the hope. Eventually, I’ll be able to cut back on all these in the rough draft, allowing me to focus more on the “fresh writing” part. It will also allow me to cut back on the time spent editing and allow me to begin sooner that next book!
As a reader, do you notice word usage? As a writer, which words are your crutches? Because let’s face it that’s what many of these words are. And they’re fine in a rough draft, but they can’t live to meet the reader on the published pages.
I’d love to find two more people to act as Beta Readers for me. Remember this is not editing, but more looking at story line issues. You’re answering questions like:
Was the Storyline believable and compelling?
Was there anything in the book you felt wasn’t necessary? If so, what?”
At any time did you think “If I were writing this, I’d change this?” What was that part?
Do you want to read the next on in the series?