Thursday, August 16, 2012

Throw away your crutches!

Let's face it, we all have those little words we toss around our manuscripts like confetti. But (yup, that's one of mine) more often than not, those words do nothing to enhance the story, do nothing to tighten your prose and you MUST weed them out! In most cases, you don't need them at all and should be banished from the page.

If you're like me though, those words are your "crutch" words, they're words that fly effortlessly from your fingertips (and probably filter into your every day speech too) without you even thinking about them - and worse, they're invisible to your eye. Just (another of mine) like the reader doesn't register the dialogue tag "said" - as a writer, you probably don't see your crutch word either.

Even if you don't see those words, trust me, the reader will.

Of course, the only way to get rid of those pesky creatures is to be aware of them. No easy task. This is where a good critique partner comes in, a fresh pair of eyes that will notice your crutch words when they leap off the page for the fourth time on page one - and they'll call you on it by highlighting it every single time you use it! Wow, talk about an eye-opener...all those colorful splotches can definitely make a girl slap her forehead.

Don't have a critique partner or want to give that MS another round of impartial eyes to find those pesky offenders? Give this free program a try: Autocrit.com

The important thing is to catch those words before you send it off to an agent, an editor or it gets self-published. We all want our readers to fall in love with our stories, not be counting how many times you used a particular word in the first three pages.

Some of the most common crutch words are:

But
Just
Then
Very
Like
As

Another crutch word is a word that is unique. A word that the author for whatever reason latches onto in a manuscript and uses it repeatedly.  It's that word that was intriguing the first time we see it on the page, but by the fifth time it's used, we're now counting and wondering when the author is going to find a different word. Yeah, we've all seen that and wondered why no editor flagged it.

Do you KNOW your crutch word? What's your technique for getting rid of them? Inquiring minds here at Passionate Critters want to know!

7 comments:

  1. Great post! 'Then' and 'as' are my two crutch words. Ugh! I used to also have a fondness for the word "skitter." Now I’m careful to use it only occasionally, after some spot-on critique partners pointed out my fondness for it. The other is ‘tangled.’ Weird, the words we latch onto!

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  2. Oh, dear. There's probably not enough space here. lol! Off the top they would be 'so', 'but' and 'and'. I seem to have a particular fondness for starting sentences with 'and'. Thank goodness I have wonderful CP's who are happy to point them out. :)

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  3. I mutter and murmur. But once I finish the first draft I do find and replace and change them all to said (then add about half of them back while I'm editing!)

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  4. Those words always remind me of the advice of Mark Twain:

    “Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be”.

    Of course, "damn" won't be an automatic delete anymore, but it's still *very* true.

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  5. Just is definitely a cutch word for me. That site sounds interesting!!

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  6. But. That(s) Just. So. (unfair!)

    *cough*

    I have them. I also weed while writing, so it's not too bad in the end.
    The main thing is to be aware of them, highlight them, and go through to clean up after yourself.

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  7. I notice sometimes that I use a crutch word! It's funny because as soon as I break one habit, I tend to create a new one :) It's one of those areas where practice really does help. And having a friend or editor point them out!

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