I’ve written about these before. Probably the last time was when I used my sheet of words/phrases to analyze my most recently published book, ACT OF SURVIVAL, Book 4 The Second Chances Series, released in 2019. The list came to me originally from the great Margie Lawson. If you haven’t taken writing classes with her, you should.
For a month and a half now, I’ve been going over TAINTED, book 8 which has an expected release date of Fall 2020. Margie’s original list which started with approximately 45 words/phrases has grown to over 75. With each book I’ve written, I’ve found two to three or more favorite words that pop up everywhere. That’s how I’ve grown the list. 🙂
I don’t overuse all the words on the list. Some I don’t use at all, but other people did, and Margie included them. Words I never use are: in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact.
Other words I’ve internalized and don’t use nearly as much as I used to: usually-3 times, actually 9 and I took it to 3.
So proud to tell you I only used begun 1 time, and I left it in. Began showed up 11 times and it dropped to 2. These words are like try and tried. The Nike add says it all. Just Do It. You don’t try to do something. Of course, Margie would probably edit out the just and say, Do It. 😊
Headed was one of those words I used everywhere. This time the word showed up 22 times in TAINTED and shrunk to 2.
I pretty much full on pantsed TAINTED, which I’ve never done before on a full book. In 2018, I pantsed a short story for the 30th anniversary anthology of the North Texas RWA chapter. The chapter had published an anthology for the 20th and 25th years, but I didn’t participate because I don’t write short stories. For the 30th I wanted to be a part. The book is Free on Amazon and the stories all take place in Dew Drop, Texas. 🙂
The point is TAINTED ended way shorter than I expected coming in at 60 thousand words. Normally, my books are 70 to 90 K, and I agonized over how short it was. But wait, I hadn’t used my Throw-Away Words list yet. Ironically, as I check these out and figure a better way to say what I mean, I add words. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what happens. TAINTED has grown to over 66 K, and I haven’t finished the list yet.
I used thing(s) 77 times and it went down to 5 in the edit process as I explained what thing was. It’s okay to use a word like thing in your first draft, but when you edit and rewrite, it’s important to flesh out the noun. What did thing stand for? (I haven’t done it yet. I’ve even been afraid to see how many times it’s in the ms, but it (the process) works the same way.)
Back in 2014, I stumbled across a cheat sheet by Deana Carlyle that provides alternative verbs for such words as jumped or touched ( 1000 verbs in all). As I substituted some of her verbs for my overused ones, I make certain they do not become themselves overused.
I mentioned handled above. That’s one of Carlyle’s substitutions for touched. I don’t use it that way so much as “I can handle that….” Checking the Thesaurus on the computer is also a great way to find a different verb or noun. For grabbed, I found: get hold of, grasp, clutch, grip, clasp, grapple, clench, seized, snatched, palmed.
This part of writing is the nitty gritty part—not the fun part when your fingers dash across the keys slamming your characters in and out of difficulties, and you may or may not know how it’s all going to turn out. Except for me, I know I’ll always have a Happily Ever After.
As a reader, do you realize how authors agonize over word selection? As a writer, what are some tricks you use to spruce up your writing? If you’d like the list, I’d be happy to share. Love to hear from you.
Because I believe with all my heart in Happily Ever Afters, I believe we will get through this pandemic. But I suspect we will be changed forever. Please, friends. Stay in. Be safe. Be well.
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