O is for....Overused Words
Today I thought I'd start a thread called 'Writing Tips'. I'll try to post at least one tip per month. Since I'm doing the A to Z Blog Challenge, I'll start with....
Yes, it's annoying to read a piece of fiction and be bombarded with the same words over and over again, so we should all try to identify the words we lean on and overuse. There are plenty of websites with lists of these words and if you keep writing, you'll start to notice your own 'crutch words'. Some of mine are oh, so, just, see, look, and very - just to name a few.
We don't want to annoy readers with the same word choices, but I've learned that looking for overused words also helps me identify other problems with a scene. Here are some examples....
I tend to use this word in dialogue and I almost always mean to imply some kind of physical action or reaction from a character. During revision, I look at each oh and if it implies action, I replace the word with some kind of physical activity.
There are five sense we can draw from, but I tend to lean on the visual. I always find way too many looks and eyes in my work. Look for these and see if you can replace the visual with a touch, an odor, a sound. Mix it up and let your characters experience events with all five senses. Watch out for words like gazed and glanced.
When you find these words in your manuscript, ask yourself if the character is really trying to do the action or actually doing it!
Sabrina tried to pull the door open is only accurate if she ultimately fails. Sabrina wrapped her hands around the heavy iron ring and pulled. The door was locked tight or Sabrina pulled with all her strength. The heavy door opened with a loud creak is more descriptive and more accurate.
I have a real problem with 'walking the dog'. Sometimes it seems impossible to move my characters from one side of the room to the other without explaining every detail of their journey. So I have characters turning, backing away, walking forward and yes, turning this way and that. Look for these words while revising and see how much of this direction your reader really needs. You can usually cut most of this prop movement.
When you're writing your first draft, I think you should ignore all rules and just get your story down on paper. I'm sure there are writers out there cringing as they read this, but if I try to remember every writing tip and rule, I'll never finish the story. Overused words are definitely something you should look for during revision and replacing them with more thoughtful choices can add depth to your story.