Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crutch Words (Part 1)

Here's a writing advice post for today. It involves what I like to call crutch words. These are those words that you use too often, words that generally weaken your writing. Since I'm in the middle of editing on Sunweaver (I'm getting closer and closer to querying), I've been paying special attention to these words.

What are some of the biggest culprits:

Adverbs: This isn't going to be an "adverbs are evil" kind of post. Adverbs, like any other part of writing, can be a useful tool in the writer's toolbox. What I'm referring to here is the unnecessary use of adverbs. Let's show a quick example of what I'm talking about (from Sunweaver).

Deril hit his head softly against the floor.

Here, I'm using this as the final part of him praying. In revisions, I decided this wasn't what I intended. What did I mean by having him hit his head softly? I knew I needed more precision, so I changed it to this:

Deril touched his head to the floor.

Not only did this eliminate the adverb. It was a more accurate description. I don't want my reader to think Deril hits his head against the floor like some kind of masochist. Yes, that would be an interesting character, but that's not what I'm going for.

Just, Only, Simply, Really, Very (special cases of adverbs): I decided to put these adverbs in their own special post because they're particularly troublesome. It's okay to use them in dialogue, but in narration, you need to carefully evaluate every instance. Ask yourself if the word is adding anything?

I singled these out because I found they were especially prevalent in my writing. Not so much for very, but the others were there in abundance. Sometimes they validated their existence, but not always. A good test is to delete the word and read the sentence. If you don't lose any meaning, you don't need the adverb.

Another one to keep a special eye on is probably. It has its places, especially if you want to indicate doubt for your POV character, but in other places, it can weaken the writing. Part of the writer's job is precision. You need to use the right words to express what you intend in the shortest space possible.

Even, Still, Again: These are more words I struggle with. Once again, there's nothing bad about these words, but they often are not necessary. You don't need to mention all the time that someone's doing something again, or that they're still doing that thing. In fact, that might be a sign that you're getting repetitive in your writing.

Even is another one that often is not necessary. It's great for occasional emphasis, but if you're seeing it show up four or five times a page, you might want to reconsider how often you're using it.

This post is getting kind of long, so I'll save the rest for another post. Feel free to respond to this post with your crutch words and how you've handled them during the editing process.

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