Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Zapping Those Pesky Words to Extinction.

Today, I want to talk about how to handle those words and phrases that seem to sneak into your manuscript uninvited and unwanted. I have no doubt, you didn't write the phrase "dragged her..." (add the body part of your choice, i.e. arm, hand, wrist, hair, leg, elbow--as you can see the list can go on and on) over fifty times in your 72,000 word novel. Neither did I. 

The problem is that between the time I submitted it to my editor and she actually began editing, somehow--my money's on osmosis--they appeared not once or twice. That would have been reasonable and acceptable. No, the dragging of some body part occurred 51 times. 51 times. How is that possible? Actually, now that I think about it, it had to fairies. Clap if you believe the fairies did it. 

What's that? Wrong line? Wrong story? Ah well. If it's not fairies, then the only logical explanation is that I wrote them, but don't you think I would have noticed? Clearly, I didn't. To make it worse, there were more, many more including shouting, yelling, crying, jerking, pushing, shoving--oh, well, you get the picture. No use destroying what little dignity I have left by beating my dead, overused, horse.

Okay, so here's how to handle such things.
Step One: Be ruthless. Get rid of them all, every one, or if you can't bear to part with every single shout, leave in a couple and no more.

Step Two: Use your search and replace feature. When I finished revising the first half of my manuscript (Come on give me a break. My heart couldn't take on the entire thing in one fell swoop. My merciful editor gave it to me in bite size pieces and just like the miniature oreos, they were much easier to handle.) 

Where was I? Oh yes, Search and replace. I checked every term I knew I'd overused and zapped them into extinction. How did I manage such a feat? Ask my thesaurus. Since it can't talk, and they say a picture's worth a thousand words, check it out.
Pretty sad, huh. 

The good news is that I've created a much better story, one with more interest and one without the usual suspects of tired and overused words. Let's twine together everyone. 

Till next time,


Big Mike said...

Aren't editors terrific.

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

Gabriella Austen said...

Yes they are in a bittersweet sort of way.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

It's the fairies. I have a love affair with and' that, and even with which.

Take that (out) any way you wish, desire, please, CAN!

Liz Fountain said...

In my most recent MS, the overused word gremlins made everyone "look." Or "feel." By gum, there was a lot of looking and feeling going on.

Love that thesaurus!


Allison Knight said...

You are all singing my song. My problem is that with each book, my repeated words are not the same words I repeated in the previous work. Fix one, don't use it more than a couple of times, but lo and behold, just look at this novel's favorite repeats. Try little and small, this works favorites. Hmmmm wonder what the words will be in the next book? My keep my word finder close.

Allison Knight said...

Should have been "Must" keep my word finder close. (Did I mention I hate the keyboards with most laptops! I used to do better with the good old typewriter.