Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Word Infiltration by Rolynn Anderson

What's the step you dread most in editing your manuscript?

Easy answer for me: eliminating repetitive words.  I call it word infiltration, a virus of words I tend to repeat, and shouldn't.

Let's take the word 'so,'...or should I say, you take that word because I don't want it anymore.  This word has quickly become today's 'like,' used by the younger folk to begin every ding-dang sentence.    'So' is a pregnant word, meant to show, especially when vocalized slowly, that a great deal of research, reflection and general hard work went into whatever statement follows 'so.'

Example: So, I wrote my 100K novel in twenty-four hours on an iPhone.

I found 40 extraneous 'so's when I edited Cézanne's Ghost.
I reduced 256  of 'that' to 170.
'Hand' I used 209 times.  Now, 134.
'Smile' down to 71 from 87/.
'Head' was 218 in my last novel.  Heading down to 141.

I used to have a problem with 'pull'.  I was happy to report only 60 this time.  Yanked 20 out of the text.
'Just' is under control.  Just.

I'm wary of: still, looked, shook.

Tell me, what other words do you winnow out (or replace) in your stories?  I may be missing one, or two, or three.  And do you hate this editing step, like I do?

Six Suspense Novels Spiked with Romance


Angela Adams said...

I tend to use "very" a lot. As in "very good," "very much," -- When I see those words while doing a proofread, I pull out my trusty book, The Synonym Finder.

Leah St. James said...

"Just" is a biggie for me. I almost have it under control. Maybe. :-) Great post, Rolynn!

Margo Hoornstra said...

The word 'turned' is one I try to replace with something more descriptive. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning, Rolynn.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Angela, I think I've learned to dump 'very.'

Leah, I kind of like 'just.' It kills me not to use it.

Margo, thanks for reminding me of 'turned.' I better check.

My right hand manual for synonyms is the Flip Dictionary. It's the bomb!

Nightingale said...

Just and So are my culprits, and I find myself having my hero rake a hand through his hair until he must be bald by now.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Yes, Nightingale. Raking, running, jabbing those fingers through the hair can become painful!

Mary Morgan said...

Recently, a beta reader pointed out my overuse of the word "Yet." I have found that I replace one overused word with another. It reminds me of a virus. You believe you have it under control until a new one surfaces. :) In truth, I like this part of the editing. I'm always curious to see what "naughty" word I'm using repetitively. Thanks so much for the post.

Ashantay said...

I have a list of words I repeat, a list that includes maybe, just, probably, another. And then I look for passive endings like to me, for me, in me. And yes, it's exhausting! Some day I'll learn to avoid those words altogether! Maybe.

Jannine Gallant said...

I pick a new word to abuse with each book. Can't wait to hear what it is when Margo gets a hold of my manuscript. The good news is I no longer overuse the common ones. I like to be creative in my writing errors. LOL

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

It's a constant battle for me. I try so hard to write a clean copy the first or second pass, which of course is impossible for me. Nevertheless, I keep trying. Then I change fonts on the chapter or whole manuscript and my eyes are better able to pick out repetitive words.

I saw a post on the Loveswept authors' facebook page the other day that had me laughing.
Message from editor: I counted 97 fu$ks in your manuscript. Overkill much?
Me: (glances at wine glass) It's all your fault.

Andrea Downing said...

I work with a list of weak words by my side but I have to say, some, such as 'turn' are really difficult to replace. I mean, there aren't many useful synonyms for that. Last completed ms. had a plethora of 'just's which I managed to about halve. And I avoid 'that'--if a sentence makes sense without it, I leave it out.

Sandra Dailey said...

Still, now, just, are my problem. As they say, admitting you have the problem is the first step.

stanalei said...

I have a problem with anything related to vision: Look, gaze, stare. I have to watch overuse of sentences with that action and work harder to find something better. Great post!

Diane Burton said...

Great reminder, Rolynn. Besides "so" my most overused are "well" and "just." Need to go over my latest and weed out the overused words.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Diane, well, just so you know, I have the same problems :-)

Stanalei, you've seen a problem we all have. We need better/more words for this group!

Sandra, it's the 12, no 100 steps to eliminate the repetitive words that kill me!

Andrea, 'turn' is a big problem, isn't it. You know what bugs me...I only get to use you fine word, plethora once in the whole book because it's such a 'big' word!

Vonnie, I always wondered how many F*@ks were too many...for some characters, there are never enough. And yes, lubricated with wine, even our characters get loose lips.

Ashantay, I agree about the exhausting is my least favorite editing task!

Janinne, that's what I worry about. If I dump these typically 'bad' ones, one others will infiltrate?

Unknown said...

For me, it's "just" and "that." Glad to hear I'm in such fine company! 😃 Lol

Rolynn Anderson said...

Jeannie, I hear your pain. Just and That are words I love to use. You are in wonderful company...we can't let go of old habits!

Barbara Edwards said...

Great post. I always need the reminder not to ovver use these.

Anonymous said...

Besides 'just' and 'that', I overuse 'some' and 'almost'. Like 'almost yelled'. My editor asks me. What does 'almost yelled' mean?! :) Great post.

Alicia Dean said...

Wow, enjoyed the post, and the comments. I'm glad to know we all do the repetitive word thing. I agree with those who said it is a different word (or words) for each book. It certainly is for me. Shrugged and nodded are two old favorites I always seem to overuse though. It's tough to notice yourself, but if you have someone else read it, or if you read backwards, from last page to first, you're more likely to spot them. Or, like Vonnie said, change your font. I'll often change my page background color to give my eyes a different view of the story, helps on errors AND repeated words.

'Look' and 'turn' are two common ones. However, if you think about it, you often don't need a synonym for them, you can just leave them out altogether. For example, if you have a sentence. "She looked at him. His expression was grim." If you just say, "His expression was grim." readers will assume she looked at him. As for turned, if you have a sentence: "He turned and stalked toward the door." You can just say "He stalked toward the door" and leave out the added info about him turning. I know they can't always be avoided, but they can more often than you might think. :) Thanks for a helpful post!

Mary Gillgannon said...

Great post. We all have them...just. Cheers!