I have been accused and rightly so of on-the-nose-writing, overwriting, redundancies, and throat-clearing. I’ve also had a close relationship with the words “that” and “had”. I blame it on inexperience and just not knowing any better.
Novelist and editor Sol Stein says the power of your words is diminished by not picking just the better one. “He proved a scrappy, active fighter,” is more powerful if you settle on the stronger of those two adjectives. Less is more. Which would you choose?
When editing your draft, remember that every word counts. Every word should have a reason for being and not just added fluff. “It sounds good,” won’t cut it.
- Avoid throat-clearing- This is a literary term used to describe a story or chapter that finally begins after two or three pages of scene setting or backstory. You may write beautifully but nobody wants to get bogged down in the description. I could care less the duchess wore a gown with six gold buttons encrusted with diamond dust running down the back unless it was found at a crime scene. Get on with the story.
- Choose normal words– When you’re tempted to show off your vocabulary, think reader-first. Get out of the way of your message.
- Avoid subtle redundancies– “She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted. When you nod, it’s your head and if you nod, you are agreeing. You don’t have to tell your reader this. “He clapped his hands.” What else would he clap? “She shrugged her shoulders.” What else would she shrug?
- Avoid the words Up and Down-unless they are really needed.
- Usually, delete the words ‘that’ and ‘had’. Read the sentence with them in it and then without. Are they really necessary? You will be amazed at how many times these words are used incorrectly.
- Give the reader credit- Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it. Another one I’m guilty of 🙂
- Avoid telling what’s not happening. “He didn’t respond.” “She didn’t say anything.” If you don’t say things happened, we’ll assume they didn’t.
- Avoid being an adjectival maniac.- Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives. Use them sparingly.
- Avoid Hedging verbs-…smiled lightly, almost laughed.
- Avoid the word literally-when you mean figuratively. I was literally climbing the walls, My eyes literally fell out of my head–really?
- Avoid on-the-nose-writing.-You don’t need to tell every action of every character in each scene, what they’re doing with each hand, etc.
I hope this information helps you to be more aware of the words you use. Choose your words wisely, they do matter.
I would like to end this blog by giving credit to Jerry Jenkins for the information I’ve shared. He has a great blog for writers and provides not only invaluable information but free tools to assist writers on their journey. If you haven’t visited his site, I would encourage you to do so 🙂