Thursday, April 6, 2017

A to Z: Extra Words

2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)

What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.



Extra words, one of the many steps to the editing process. Sometimes it's trimming them, sometimes its adding them. Let's look at both.

In the case of a restricted work count, you may need to do some trimming to conform to guidelines. This happens most often with short stories...or novels that have inflated to 300K for no good reason. Don't laugh. It's a true story. Let's just say I'm really good at cutting words at this point in life.

You may have crutch words that can simply be cut because they serve no real purpose. Some common words to take a judgmental look at:
very
just
that
up/down - as in sitting down (sat), standing up (stood), etc.

Perhaps, upon reading your story for the twentieth pass, you come to the sudden realization that Chuck's enduring habit of hunching his shoulders when he's uncertain has gotten out of control and when you do a search for the word "hunch" it pops up thirty nine times. You might want to cut a few of those. Also a true story, though from a story I was reading for someone else.

As you skim over your words, you may begin to notice a few words or phrases that pop up and become distracting because you had them on the mind when writing and used them way more than necessary. Each story tends to have a couple of these. For example, I recently discovered that in one of my books, no one could just simply get out of a chair. They jumped out of them. Because: action!

What about adding words? Sometimes the story is sparse, and you may need to beef up description so you don't have talking heads in a void or your setting is all of two words, like "a bar". This is one of my problems. I got so used to cutting words, that sometimes I go too far and I have to rely on critique partners to tell me where my bare bones are exposed.

What words have you overused?

I'd love to visit your blog and see what you're up to with the A to Z Challenge. Please be sure to leave a link with your comment.


18 comments:

  1. The up and down thing - very good point, I need to look out for that. To try and control my verbosity, I write drabbles and force myself to 100 words, which has been teaching me all about when a word is needed and when it isn't :)
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

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    1. Writing short stories helped me to spot those extra words too. Now I often have the opposite problem.

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  2. I love your theme!

    My manuscripts often have an infestation of "apparently, seemingly, definitely", etc. I am trying to get it under control.

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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  3. Your blog posts are so helpful to me! I know that I overuse just, only, simply, that and similar words. And prepositional phrases. I overuse those, too.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador

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    1. I'm happy to hear you find them helpful. Just is one of my problem words too.

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  4. Goodness, yes, this was such a hard lesson to learn. "Of" is one of those words I've taken to trimming out, too. Apparently my latest word to overuse is "eyebrow," but, darn it, there are only so many ways to describe facial expressions without using it!

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean. There's only so many ways to convey facial expressions.

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  5. Your 'hunching' is my 'shrugging'. No one says, Yes. It's always accompanied by a shrug. Delete!

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    1. Sounds like your writing a bunch of teenagers, because that's exactly true in that case. :D

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  6. My words are giggle, chuckle, snicker, laugh - how many ways can you say it? I use a thesaurus a LOT.

    E: Ecuador & Epcot
    DB McNicol, author & traveler
    Theme: Oh, the places we will go!

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    1. oh yes! Those are easy words to overuse. Laugh is a big one for me too. I tried to change it up with my last book and snicker ended up on the rewording list quite at lot.

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  7. As I said earlier, I found myself using "eventually" a lot in my memoir. And I have been eating that memoirs have to be between 80K to 90K, so I have found myself trying to make it longer. But some have told me word count shouldn't matter and I shouldn't just be adding words just to make it longer.

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  8. As long as you've told the story you mean to tell, use what word count you end up with. Ebooks are far more forgiving when it comes to word counts outside the norm.

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  9. I'm pretty good with VERY and THAT, but I always have to be sure I don't go overboard with JUST and AND. I think AND is my favorite word to overuse.

    Dena
    https://denapawling.blogspot.com/

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  10. Hi Jean - I know I overuse words ... and do have trouble cutting posts down ... I try and remember less is better, yet content needs to be 'content'! Cheers Hilary

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  11. "Decided" My characters decide to do things far too much and I have to go back through and make them actually do things rather than decide to do them :).
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - Shapeshifters and Werewolves

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  12. One of the ways I have adopted to help with this is joining the various weekly Flash fiction photo prompts on WordPress. With a very limited budget of words your story has to say everything with very few words.

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  13. Yes sometimes you are just stuck on certain words and have to keep cutting them out as you re-read.

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