Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's In a Word

Do you have a favorite word you lean on in conversation? We all do – maybe it’s “like” or “well.” Could be “you know” or “um” or even a phrase like “no way.” Well, authors have words and phrases they lean on, too. That’s great in a draft…it's essential to get the story out and on paper, or hard drive as the case is today. Don’t even worry about them at that point.

Then you have to be relentless as you scour your manuscript. How many times do you start a sentence with “but” or “and,” “however” or “although”? Another word many of us are guilty of using as a prop is “that.” Use the “Find” command sometime and take a look at how many times these words sneak into a manuscript.

Don’t get me wrong -- sometimes one of those is exactly the right word choice, but many times those words creep in because our minds are zipping along as we write. It gives us a moment to get the sentence flowing as we go. Kind of like that “um” partway thru a spoken sentence. It seems invisible until you start to hear the other person saying it, like, you know, every couple of sentences. Then that’s all you can, like, hear! You start to sort of tune out…or focusing on it instead of what the person is saying!

So, take a few minutes and check out the repeats in your next completed first draft. Don’t be too worried too at what you find – we all do it as we write.

Next step, though, is to start striking through those handy lean-ons relentlessly.

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great reminder, thanks. I'm working on revisions now.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Holly Jahangiri said...

One of mine is "actually."