Sunday, July 20, 2008

Revising the Novel - Avoiding Overused Words


I'm moving along with the revision. After several weeks, I finally have a grasp on the final tweak I needed to get my antagonist's motivation clearer and stronger. Again, a testament to the success of writing groups as it was the combination of thoughts from different writer's that led me to where I need to go.

In the meantime (as I'm writing away furiously) I'm going to post this helpful little list of overused words. i came upon this list several months ago, on a number of different sites, and felt that it could add value to all of our writing. As we discussed in the Ten-Point Revision Strategy, weak words need to be discovered, isolated and excised like skin cancer. Hopefully this list will help you find your own favorites, words that we habitually rely upon. These words are weak and as descriptive or powerful as we'd like to think they are.


amazing
awesome
awfully
bad
beautiful
big
fine
good
great
happy
interesting
look
nice
quite
really
so
very
well
then
began
felt
suddenly

And by suggestion:

actually


Any other words you'd like to add to the list? Let's make it grow of all those words we need to be careful of using.

5 comments:

Mark David Gerson said...

One more for your list: Actually.

And, yes, I'd love to exchange blog links...but your comment on my blog left me no way to contact you! (Contact me @ http://markdavidgerson.com/contactmdg.html)

Todd D. Severin said...

Great choice, I've added it to the list.

Any more overused words, folks?

Anonymous said...

My students use the word "Fun" alot.

Dark Angel Blogger said...

You forgot a few important ones to avoid in fiction:
could
feel/feeling/felt
had / have
hear/heard
initial conjunctions
it/there
just/then
knew/know
ly adverbs
maybe
see/saw
smell/taste
that

Molli said...

Could, feel/feeling/felt, had, have, hear/heard, it/there, just/then, knew/know, look, ly adverbs, maybe, see/saw, smell/taste, that, was/were. There are long lists of overused words but they don't mean you can't use them. Use them sparingly. Tags are another thing you have to keep down. The he said/she said. Not everyone agrees on what to do about tags. Dialogue doesn't have to be in full sentences. People speak in fragments.

Generic descriptions, initial conjunctions, intial ing (in otherwords starting a sentence with it or there, etc and words that end in ing. Watch out for cliche's. They aren't always what you think they are.

Mind you, you don't have to remove them all. Another thing is repeating words and phrases a lot in areas of your writing. Pacing is balance of slow to fast parts of your writing, Watch your homonyms, so you don't put the wrong one. Another is then and than. I personally use autocrit which helps a lot. If I don't agree and for instance I use a word more than once it will fit the dialogue and need to be there but I keep it down.

Most of the places I have gotten information write that what matters most is all of these ideas but look at how it reads if you have to use an extra it or was to make things read correctly then so be it. Otherwise you will have to rewrite. I do but sometimes I don't want to change what I have because it fits the story. I write in various time periods therefore sometimes the cliche works in that time because it hasn't become cliche yet.

Read works by some of the best selling authors and you will find many of them don't follow these rules to the letter and some who do aren't getting published. My personal opinion is a good story and then refine these things within the story. I have to write about height often because it is something integral to my story. I try to keep descriptions down and most of it comes out in dialogue.

I have written mostly non fiction articles for e-zines. Writing novels doesn't come any easier for me. Good luck all.