There is something I want to tell you. As absolutely awesome and nice it is to see you, often when we’re together it’s because I really find you interesting and amazing which isn’t bad; in fact, it’s good and fine and makes me a bit happy. Really. But therefore, I hope you are well and will continue to be thereafter. So long.
If you’re completely puzzled after reading the above paragraph, I admit I’m guilty. It’s terrible, and I wrote it, but there was a method to my madness. Read further, and I’ll explain.
I’ve been working on the second book in the Edmund DeCleryk series, Murder in the Cemetery. After several drafts, the process of editing and polishing has begun, and for me, this is the hard part. After writing everything I could think of that will create and enhance the plot, I start
winnowing it down. First, I look for inconsistencies. For example, in book one, Murder in the Museum, one of the characters and his wife had recently welcomed their second grandchild. A year-and-half later, in this second book, the grandchild is in kindergarten. Whoops!
As I read through the book, I also look for extraneous narrative. Annie, wife of Ed, the investigator and a sleuth in her own right, provides an intern who is working on a project for her with contact information for her friend, Charles, who lives in Canada. Charles, who had a large role in book one, has expertise in the field the intern is researching. As much as I wanted him to reappear in book two, I realized that the intern didn’t need Charles’ help and never would, the task was simple. Goodbye, Charles.
I’m pretty good at spelling, grammar and punctuation. I was an English teacher, for gosh sake. That said, I always find errors. Sometimes my brain works faster than my fingers as they pound away at the keyboard; I make mistakes. This is the phase in the book where I read carefully and slowly; I don’t want my publisher to think I’m illiterate or careless, heaven forbid.
Now we come to the reason for the sentence at the beginning of this blog. I know from experience that it’s easy to overuse certain words, as I did above. Sometimes we get attached to phrases, we use them to pad the word count, or our overuse of words is completely unintentional. If we want our writing to flow, if we want it to look professional, these must be deleted. At least most of them.
Using computer software, I can search my document for a certain word, and it’s highlighted every time it appears. It’s frustrating because the computer can’t distinguish the as in was from the word as. Still, it’s a good tool. It takes time, but once I’ve identified these overused words, I can rewrite sentences that are original, creative. And, hopefully for you, the reader, much more compelling.
3 thoughts on “Overused Words by Karen Shughart”
Oh, what a good tip–the space before and after! If not doing it, it can sure screw up a manuscript. And those over used little words like just and so and that.
Great post on editing, Karen. It is the not so fun part of writing but in the end the most needed. And like Amber said, I also put a space before and after the word so you don’t get all the ones in the middle of other words.
When searching for overused words (I do that, too) I put a space before and after the word when I enter it as a search term. That way I don’t get the other words that have that letter sequence as a component. I find I have a new overused word habit for each book. I cure myself of one, and then I acquire another. It’s often my beta readers who notice first.
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