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Troublesome words

I’ve begun the edits on the Siem Reap Story.

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Every author falls prey to words and phrases that pop up a little too frequently in their work.  You may have noticed one of mine in my excerpt posted on Jan 18.

“And you decided to just gate crash my dream vacation as a way to catch up? If you wanted to get in touch with me to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve just used Facebook like a normal person.”

I utilized the find tool and found 69 uses of the word “just” in my first draft.

Here’s the edited version of the same paragraph.  You’ll notice that “just” has been omitted.

Exasperated, she threw the soda into the trash and turned to face him. “If you wanted to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve used Facebook or email like a normal person. Or Rachel could’ve told me that you would be there. What made you think crashing my dream vacation would be fun?”

“Just” is a word that becomes far to easy to rely upon, and is most often unnecessary filler.  Other words that fall into that category are “actually” (5x) , “very” (45x), “really” (21x), trying (12x), “some” (63x) and “almost” (10x). I’ve learned about some of these weaknesses on my own, others were pointed out by beta readers.

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The other thing I do a find search on before I begin to edit a piece in earnest is “began” (53x).

RJ took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him was overwhelming and another orgasm began to build. His tongue seduced hers as he began to move within her. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. She needed him more than oxygen. The kisses grew hungrier as if they could make up for every missed kiss over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their kisses.

Everything began to spin out of control, and the orgasm hit her like a monsoon

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten was from Lynn Townsend, who told me that characters should only begin to do something if the action is about to be interrupted “He began to walk across the room, but tripped over his cat.”

He took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him, was overwhelming. His tongue seduced hers. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. The kisses grew hungrier, as if they could make up for every missed opportunity over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their mating tongues.

The orgasm was a monsoon.

Dropping “began” makes for a stronger story. In the example above, you’ll find I didn’t replace began with a different word. If there is a “began,” (or any of the other go-to words) it’s a hint that the entire sentence should probably get an edit.

Now that I’ve shared some of my most troublesome words–what are yours?

6 Responses

  1. it is not so much troublesome words, but passive tense and extra words–they vary! sometimes i cringe when i edit!

  2. A patronising editor once told me to check for the five ‘naughty words’. (NB I’m not six years old – I write BDSM!). But it was good advice all the same – purge your work of: it, that, was, and, then…

  3. It (596!!!!)

    That (203)

    Was (307)

    And (607)

    Then (44)

    Those are depressing numbers. EEK

  4. awesome tips…I am guilty of these and so much more. I like how your passages sound after the edit.

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