Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Words to Search and Destroy in your manuscript

Eleven words you should delete from your novel.
 
I’ve been working on revising my next novel, A Different Kind, so I thought I’d share with all of you part of the process. When I get closer to that final draft I take advantage of Microsoft Word’s “Find” feature, using it to find and remove unnecessary “dead” words. The following words should be used sparingly. Unless absolutely necessary, or in dialogue these words are evil and must be destroyed.

Very – Never use very. 

Just – Sometimes the word “just” is useful at showing how suddenly something happened, or necessary when used in phrases, but other times “just” is just “very” in disguise. If the sentence makes sense without it, take it out.

Really – Sometimes “really” in necessary, but if it’s not it’s just another “very” in disguise.

And – “And” is obviously a word that cannot be avoided, but excessive use of “and” makes your sentences drawn out and wordy.

Then – Again, the word “then” isn’t one you can avoid using completely. But sometimes “then” is just “and” in disguise, so if you don’t need it, cut it.

Suddenly – This is a word that tells instead of shows. EX: “Suddenly there was an explosion” or “Boom! The stove burst into flames” which is more sudden? Exactly. Cut the suddenly’s and describe your scene.

Seem – This is a “wishy-washy” word and using it won’t inspire confidence in your reader. Things should either happen or not happen, don’t say that they “seemed to happen”.

Like – Saying something “looked like...” something, is the same as saying “seemed”. Unless something “looks like” or “seems” to be something that it’s not, then take out these words and just say what it is. Also, if you use “like” a lot, you may be using too many similes.

Up – Don’t say “he stood up,” just say “he stood”.

Out – Don’t say “he went out to the car,” just say “he went to the car”

Over – Don’t say “he walked over to the door,” just say “he walked to the door”

Mrs TeePot

Check out these three paragraphs. The first uses many of the “evil words” mentioned above. The second paragraph just highlights them, and the third is the same paragraph with the words removed.

John stood up, and went out to the car; he walked over to the door and seemed to be looking for something in the glove box, and then suddenly he jumped back. Just then a squirrel leapt from the car, and John laughed, his face turning really red.


John stood up, and went out to the car; he walked over to the door, opened it and seemed to be looking for something in the glove box, and then suddenly he jumped back. Just then a squirrel leapt from the car, and John laughed, his face turning really red.


John stood. He went to the car, opening the door and looked through the glove box. Thump! His head banged into the roof as he backed up, and a squirrel leapt out. John laughed, his face turning red.

Note that I made a few other changes in the final paragraph. John no longer walks to the door and opens it. He just opens it. You reader will assume the in-between action of “walking to the door”, if you tell him he went out to the car and opened the door. Also the squirrel no longer leaps from the car; he just “leaps out”. The reader already knows we’re at the car, so it doesn’t have to be said again.

Also notice that the final paragraph is much shorter than what we started with, and yet it gives us more information, such as John hitting his head on the roof of the car.


If you liked this post, you can find more like it here.