Today I want to talk about go-to words. You know, those words we ALWAYS use in our manuscripts even though we know we shouldn't. When I'm editing for a client, I cut these words, change them out, or mark them to be changed by the author. The thing is, I use these words in my own writing.
I'm working on edits for my Into the Fire trilogy and my editor kindly pointed out that my characters LOVE to smile and shrug. Not together, obviously, but you get the point. When I did a search for these, I was blown away. I'm talking head to desk, wondering how book one was ever printed this way. I was embarrassed to be honest. The good thing is that I know this book is so much better now. The writing is tighter, there are added scenes, and the pace is faster.
I'm going to share some words you should look for in your own writing and then cut. Here it goes:
that (This is the word I cut the most for my editing clients.)
just (This word is a close second to "that" as far as what I cut most for clients.)
adverbs (Okay, it's not an exact word to look for, but you know what I'm talking about. Opt for specific verbs and ditch those adverbs.)
So (I'm very guilty of this one. Cut it.)
but (Nothing wrong with this word, but—see what I did there?—be mindful of how often you use the "He did this, but…" sentence structure.)
well (Another personal favorite)
Here are three others, I'll caution you about:
These are telling words. If you're using them, you are distancing your reader from the story. Let the reader experience these senses instead of being told about them.
*While this list is in the present tense, ALL tenses apply. ;)
Do you have any go-to words that aren't on my list? Feel free to share them in the comments.
**If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.