Craft Chat 43 Words To Cut From Your Writing

Help Please! Title help please

Nothing to see here

Status
Not open for further replies.
It's only a blog post. Nothing is absolute. But I can tell you from experience that using filler words like the ones in this post more than a few times in a story does stand out to a reader. I know this to be true because a lot of these words are ones my editor routinely flags, and I never realize how much I've used them until she does that. :) Do I leave some in at times? Yes. But I do remove 99% of them. :)

Over the years, I've learned that advice along these lines, generally speaking, is sound advice. It's also the same kind of advice I've seen time and again on agents' and editors' blogs. Since they're the ones most writers are trying to get a story past, I post them here to help, nothing more. :) I certainly don't have all the answers. If I did, I'd have that private island I want. :D These are merely simple things you can do to tighten up your writing.
 
Man, just is a hard one! I find that all over the place in my MSs. I do disagree to a point on the dialogue tags. I need reminders throughout the conversation on who is talking. Doesn't need to be every line or even terribly often. Just don't fill an entire page without tags or I'll have to go back through and count lines to figure out who's talking.
 
Aaah, I'm trying so hard to remember which word I used a lot in my MS. I know I had a lot of people furrowing their brows for a while which was hilarious reading back when I noticed it. Imagining all my characters walking around looking concerned all the time!

Like Nicole I do like a bit of a heads up on dialogue sometimes, especially if there are a few people talking. But, I was definitely guilty of overusing he said she said in my first draft. Actually, I still have more to take out. I noticed one just dipping in on my MS earlier!
 
@Chase Gamwell I know, right?! There's a lot of important stuff going on, man. Them brows need a furrowing! Haha. I also have your typical bad character who was doing a bit of glaring for a while. Ah! One day, when I've written a bunch of books, I'm going to get a real kick out of my first books first draft!

My main villain grins maniacally or has an amused smile on his face most of the time. That, and he doesn't use contractions. He's all proper like that!
 
@Chase Gamwell Hahah! I need to read through his parts, but I am absolutely certain he does things "sardonically" haha! Oh this is fun. Do we have a thread poking fun at ourselves yet? We're all so hell bent on getting it right and being the best, sometimes it really is good to just laugh at it all!
 
As well as particular words, I would also offer a general warning on ‘fancy’ words or grandiloquence. My father always told me to ‘wear your learning lightly’ and while we may forgive the Victorians, you have no excuse. The thesaurus is a valuable tool, especially when looking for three different words for ‘admirably’, but please avoid the temptation to trawl for the most obscure word. (I was tempted to employ the word ‘arcane’ but I would be guilty of my own complaint) You insult the reader and you will certainly fail to impress agents. They, to employ another of my father’s phrases, can tell s**t from sugar.
 
As well as particular words, I would also offer a general warning on ‘fancy’ words or grandiloquence. My father always told me to ‘wear your learning lightly’ and while we may forgive the Victorians, you have no excuse. The thesaurus is a valuable tool, especially when looking for three different words for ‘admirably’, but please avoid the temptation to trawl for the most obscure word. (I was tempted to employ the word ‘arcane’ but I would be guilty of my own complaint) You insult the reader and you will certainly fail to impress agents. They, to employ another of my father’s phrases, can tell s**t from sugar.
A somewhat sesquipedalian appeal for an antisesquipedalian approach?
 
I spent several hours last night weeding out the filler words suggested as unnecessary in this very useful article. My 28,000 WIP is tighter because of it. The word search box of any writing programme is a powerful tool to use, as one doesn't realise how often a word or phrase has crept into a manuscript over the course of several months.

One thing to bear in mind, is that there's a difference between your narrative voice and how your characters converse. They may well have conversational tics that would grate if the narrator used them. These are strong indicators of their upbringing, education, interests and job. My protagonist is a murder detective, who uses police jargon in an abbreviated way - saying 'crim' for criminal and 'vic' for victim. This is OK for him to do, but would look daft if I did it as the omniscient narrator.

In this way, one's characters may well be too wordy, using filler words deliberately to delay giving a clear answer. Writing conversation is one of the most artificial things we do in our stories, as it's so much more streamlined and shortened than how people really talk. It would be a mistake to clean up a character's grammar and phrasing so much that their true nature disappeared. For instance, I once worked with a pedantic man who used the word actually a lot, even beginning and ending a sentence with it. He also peppered his pronouncements with exactly, quite, precisely and really. He always used unnecessary words to emphasise a point, something that we writers should avoid.
 
I agree, @Paul Whybrow . I don't remove filler words in conversation if they're one of my character's ways of speaking. Sometimes I don't remove them all in narrative because they're part of my voice, but I do try to find another way of saying it so the word itself doesn't become repetitive to the point of being obvious in the manuscript. And that's really all this article is trying to point out. Filler words become obvious to the reader if you're not careful where and how often they're used.

The same thing can happen in dialogue with a character trait, or with someone trying to write in a dialect. It can become more work for the reader to figure out what the character is trying to say, and that will stop the flow for them and pull them right out of the story. NOT want any writer wants to have happen. :)
 
As well as particular words, I would also offer a general warning on ‘fancy’ words or grandiloquence. My father always told me to ‘wear your learning lightly’ and while we may forgive the Victorians, you have no excuse. The thesaurus is a valuable tool, especially when looking for three different words for ‘admirably’, but please avoid the temptation to trawl for the most obscure word. (I was tempted to employ the word ‘arcane’ but I would be guilty of my own complaint) You insult the reader and you will certainly fail to impress agents. They, to employ another of my father’s phrases, can tell s**t from sugar.
A somewhat sesquipedalian appeal for an antisesquipedalian approach?
I agree, @Paul Whybrow . I don't remove filler words in conversation if they're one of my character's ways of speaking. Sometimes I don't remove them all in narrative because they're part of my voice, but I do try to find another way of saying it so the word itself doesn't become repetitive to the point of being obvious in the manuscript. And that's really all this article is trying to point out. Filler words become obvious to the reader if you're not careful where and how often they're used.

The same thing can happen in dialogue with a character trait, or with someone trying to write in a dialect. It can become more work for the reader to figure out what the character is trying to say, and that will stop the flow for them and pull them right out of the story. NOT want any writer wants to have happen. :)
Yeah but damn it sometimes you just have to let fly with a zinger like grandiloquence, don't you? Once in a while, so people are like ooh!

And there are all sorts of character traits you can display, when a character can't wear his or her learning lightly: stiff-and-aloof-ness, condescension, self-superiority...

Time and a place. Or maybe I'm just a sesquipedalian in need of an intervention.
 
You know, they called me crazy, but I knew it. I just knew you were a lizard man!
confused-baby-485x272.jpg


[Picture of Jim Gaffigan being confused.]
 
This made me laugh because my characters tend to do this on the regular. Mind you, they have reasons to furrow their brows, but it's still funny nonetheless (since they do tend to walk around looking constantly concerned with the state of affairs in my fictional world).
Chase, I do that in real life, so it might not be so odd after all. Though in truth, I frown, not furrow, I borrow, not burrow. And rhyming is such sweet sorrow. Or not.
 
Have any Colonists tried this 43 word exercise in removing filler words? I've spent the last week wading through my first novel, hacking away at unnecessary words. My too-long 175,000 word crime novel is now 6,000 words shorter, which astonishes me.

Take your courage in both hands and try it. Park your ego at the door.

It's worth looking for the other filler words suggested in the comments at the bottom of Diana Urban's article, which include when, actually, next and then. I found that I'd used knew loads of times, which isn't surprising in a way, as my story is a psychological thriller with the police trying to work things out. All the same, I despaired when I found one short paragraph containing nine knews, two knowns and a single bolshy unknowing!

Had cropped up a lot too, which is what happens when one skips around the tenses.

All in all, this editing has been instructive, satisfying and tedious. The things is, no one but a professional editor would know I've done it, and it goes to prove what time-consuming and nit-picking activities fill a writer's day.

Actually, if I can stamp my little feet a bit, this is the sort of thing that self-employed struggling writers are forced to do, as authors who are successful have editorial teams to shovel the shit for them! I somehow doubt that JK Rowling sits there searching for how many times she's used 'really' too often and agonising about what a fool she is...
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Help Please! Title help please

Nothing to see here

Back
Top