Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Naughty List



No, I’m not talking about what you do on your own time, or how it reflects on your gifts from Santa. I’m talking about, the editor’s naughty list. Phrases you repeat in your writing, unnecessary words and words telling instead of showing the action. In my edits for my dark fiction Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary, I used the word ‘that’ 235 times. Yikes. My editor asked me to delete at least 234 of the word ‘that’. She also asked me to reevaluate the 110 times I used the word ‘sprinted’. In my defense, the characters in Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary are trapped and running around the abandoned prison in an attempt to escape evil. It’s just, that, they have to flee somehow, and I felt this was not really a good time for a stroll through the park. (This sentence is an example of an editor's day in hell)   


Some of my favorite overused phrases:
  …glanced over her shoulder
  …heart pounding in my chest
  …sprinted

*One editor told me,  she gets it, the guy has ‘muscular shoulders’, but it she comes across that phrase one more time in my manuscript she’s going to puke.

A few unnecessary words:
  That, just, really, it, in order to, usually, actually, very, and well

*One editor said, in general, if she sees the word ‘well’ start another dialogue she is going to reach through the computer and strangle someone.  

Telling words instead of showing:
  Was, were, felt, feel, saw, watched, started, and began  

Before you submit a manuscript, what words do you search in your document to eliminate? Are there certain words you avoid as you write? Share your tips.


Victoria Roder lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and house full of pets. She is the author of paranormal thriller Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary, action thriller Bolt Action, paranormal romance The Dream House Visions and Nightmares. Picture books An Important Job to Do: A Noah’s Ark Tale, What If A Zebra Had Triangles? and children’s chapter books, Sled Dog Tales and The Curse of King Ramesses II, an inspirational book It’s Not You, It’s Them: Six Choices to Healing & Thriving After Abuse, and puzzle book Directions For Life. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. Please visit Victoria at www.victoriaroder.com


12 comments:

Big Mike said...

You forget the words: just, it is, it was, he was, they were, any "ly" words, etc.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Victoria Roder said...

I know, too many words to mention. It's amazing we end up with any kind of word count.

He Reigns! said...

Let's not forget the word "as". SO over used by authors. And, let's get into roaming body parts:
shrugged his shoulders - what else gets shrugged?
sat down - how else do you sit?
stood up - of course it's up!
lifted his chin, lifted her arm, lifted her eyes - are they heavy, do you really have to lift them?
No, you don't!
She threw a glance - no, she glanced - that's all.
Her hand raised to her face. Um, wow, a magic hand that moves all on its own? I don't think so.
Okay, Vicki, I'll stop, you know I can go all day!

Merry Christmas, Authors!

Marie McGaha
Dancing With Bear Publishing

He Reigns! said...

Let's not forget the word "as". SO over used by authors. And, let's get into roaming body parts:
shrugged his shoulders - what else gets shrugged?
sat down - how else do you sit?
stood up - of course it's up!
lifted his chin, lifted her arm, lifted her eyes - are they heavy, do you really have to lift them?
No, you don't!
She threw a glance - no, she glanced - that's all.
Her hand raised to her face. Um, wow, a magic hand that moves all on its own? I don't think so.
Okay, Vicki, I'll stop, you know I can go all day!

Merry Christmas, Authors!

Marie McGaha
Dancing With Bear Publishing

Allison Knight said...

Personally, I like the falling or moving body parts. (grin) Her eyes fell, his heart caught in his throat, blood raced through her veins. Oh, I'm guilty, but I try hard not to let me characters lose their parts too often. I would think the 'ly' words would drive editors to drink. I counted a well known author who used five 'ly' words in one sentence once. It drove me nuts and I'm sure not an editor.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Guilty, too. I'm a "That" person.

We used to laugh at eyes sweeping the room. Now we need a new place for the heart.

A memoir I read recently put it on the right hip. The author's grandmother used to smack her on the hip and say bless your heart. Location, location...

Jude Johnson said...

Oh lordy, Guilty! My characters nod their heads and blink too much...
~jude

Victoria Roder said...

Yeah, the roaming body parts trip me up, too!

cecigiltenan.com said...

I can honestly tell you that I know that I never willingly choose to make those very annoying mistakes. ;-)

That lie will land me on the real naughty list.

Michele said...

I also try to watch my use of the word 'that.' Whenever I write it, I try the sentence without it and if it works without it, I take it out. My daughter told me I use coquettishly too often! So I watch out for that one, too.

Mark said...

An editor told you that if she came across a given phrase one more time, she'd puke? Does she suffer from Literary Bulimia?

Hey, sometimes, cliche or stock phrase just works. But next time I'm shopping a manuscript around, mebbe I'll include an airline sick sack right along with the self-addressed stamped envelope (g).

HuntMode said...

Victoria, I enjoyed this. Thank you. Now, I shall be haunted by some cold-hearted editor in a freezing attic somewhere... Without question, I am guilty of these uses.