Skip these Words So You Don’t Come Across as a Newbie
Writing and speaking are different beasts. Yes, we use dialogue in our writing, but dialogue is not the same as reality-speak. Our work must draw emotions from the reader. We drive her from point A to B. We pull her around the world on an adventure, or we take her to the deep parts of her mind she’d rather not visit.
We bend, shape, and mold language in unique ways to entertain people a few hours of their lives. Remember the entertain part. We’re not here to make the reader feel the same as her reality. She wants a different experience.
Also, your reader doesn’t have all day to wait around for you to get on with the story. He’s got places to be, more content to consume, and perhaps a job to contend with. You’ve got to get in and get out, like a team of Navy Seals — but you’re alone… and you’re holding a pencil.
If your writing doesn’t engage the reader throughout the experience you haven’t done your job as best you could. An engaged reader is a happy reader. A happy reader returns the next time you have something new.
You may only get one chance with a reader. She’s got an infinite number of choices for her time. There are more books and stories available today than any time in history. If you come across as a hack right out the gate, your work may never get a second chance with her.
It’s time to write tighter.
That statement might make sound exciting or it might make you want to puke. What I do know it the landscape is changing. I sure don’t want my time wasted when I read. If the writer could say something with one word and she chose five — I won’t give her many chances before I dump her book for a different one.
I compiled this list. Everything on the list is a mistake I made in my own writing. I’m an up-and-coming indie author with a very short attention span. Every word counts. Sometimes the words we hear in our heads (and put to the page) require more brevity during the editing process.
I keep a long master list every time I pull a new one from my writing, but here are 12 common phrases you should avoid at all costs.
12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Writing:
1.You wrote: By the time Fred realized his wallet was stolen…
Instead write: Once Fred realized his wallet was stolen…
2.You wrote: Shelly came back from the store…
Instead write: Shelly returned from the store…
3.You wrote: Doug said the same thing over and over.
Instead write: Doug said the same thing repeatedly.
4. You wrote: I can’t walk and chew gum at the moment.
Instead write: I can’t walk and chew gum now.
5. You wrote: I was able to read the document with my eyes closed.
Instead write: I could read the document with my eyes closed.
6. You wrote: She blinked her eyes.
Instead write: She blinked (nothing blinks besides the eyes. The eyes are implied with blinking). These small tweaks hold true for all kinds of body motions. He stood, not he stood up. You can’t stand down unless you’re in a gun battle. Bent (or stooped), not bent over. Sank, not sank down. She shrugged, not shrugged her shoulders — you get the idea.
7. You wrote: Wally made an attempt at skydiving and loved it.
Instead write: Wally tried skydiving and loved it.
8. You wrote: Rachel was in charge of the gas station.
Instead write: Rachel oversaw the gas station.
9. You wrote: She spent money on things she couldn’t afford.
Instead write: She purchased/bought things she couldn’t afford.
10. You wrote: Tony was alone in the room with his cat
Instead write: Tony was alone with his cat.
11. You wrote: She has a laptop with a sticker on it.
Instead write: She has a laptop with a sticker attached.
12. You wrote: As long as the sun shines we’ll go to the beach
Instead write: If the sun shines we’ll go to the beach.
These small phrases add up.
The idea of writing a good story is not to take as much of the reader’s time as possible, but to tell the story with the exact number of words required to tell it the best way possible — no more.
Tight writing is a muscle that will grow with practice. Not all words choices fit every story. You’ll make deliberate choices based on the characters in your story.
Once you know what doesn’t belong you’ll be more adept at putting inappropriate phrases back in, deliberately, to make the reader feel the character.
Once you know the rules, they’re all yours to break.