|A confiscated Facebook post|
I’ve touched on repeated words in manuscripts in earlier posts, but I still find them in my WiP. Not as many, but they’re there (alongside those typo gremlins), so I’ll have another go at this.
First drafts are usually full of the words that are top-of-mind, the ones with which we are most familiar. The words we use every day. These familiar words allow us writers to push through the draft rather than take time to search our minds or a thesaurus for better ones.
It’s when writers get into the rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite editing that we see how our familiar words/phrases simply can’t live up to the task of enriching our manuscripts. They rise to the surface as trite or overused.
One solution is to use a writing software program to “Find” how many times a word is repeated. I search my entire manuscript for some word I find too often during a quick review, and then replace or delete (most often delete) the offending repetitions. This software feature often leads to word choice or phrasing improvements that I didn’t see before.
I usually start my search with the words I know I use too often, but one creative writing instructor I know suggests starting with the verbs . . . the “to be” verbs (is, were), but also says don’t worry about occasional usage. Next go to active verbs. I find a lot of look, smile, walk, glance, shrug, frown, et al. How many are too many? If they begin to annoy me when I see them in the text, there are too many.
I can’t forget to check for nouns. I find dozens of coffee, latte, mouth, eyes, eyebrows, hand. I also check for “then” and “while.” Too many of these can mean poor transitions and a lot of complex sentences, which tend to slow down the reader.
Elmore Leonard’s ten rules* for writers have been published many times. Number 4 of his list is about adverbs: “Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs". (* https://bit.ly/3OK6UGd )
Here are two of my favorite examples:
I hope you enjoyed Kaye George’s “Smashing Stereotypes” post last Wednesday as much as I did. Definitely a learning moment for me.
That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Because I still have a bit of bronchial cough residual from last December, I’ve started wearing a mask again when out in crowded spaces. Lifting prayers for your health and safety.