On Word Crutches

Photo credit: kenteegardin on Flickr
So over the weekend, while burying myself in revisions in a desperate attempt to try to finish revisions before NaNo (something that is still in progress), I came across the part of my edit notes that listed words I was overusing.

Forgetting, I suppose, that this is my least favorite part of the editing process, I plugged my MS in word cloud, wrote down the most commonly overused words, added the words from my edit notes to the list, and started searching.

And, well. This happened.

Word crutches, unfortunately, happen to everyone—and more so, I've found that when you get rid of one crutch, you tend to accidentally add another to your repertoire. (For example, my characters used to arch their eyebrows all the time—now, apparently, they think about breathing constantly.) I'm guessing this tends to happen because when you're first drafting, you're mostly focused on getting the words and story down without getting too caught up on which words your using, which means your brain will rely on many defaults. Which is okay. Because first drafts.

Going through your manuscript to cut down on the crutches should be one of the final things you check for, because if you end up having to add more to your MS, you'll probably add them back in, or vice versa, if you end up cutting something from your MS, you'll have wasted time removing a crutch from a passage that's getting trashed anyway.

Many times, I've found when systematically removing these overused words, that many of them are often redundant to begin with, i.e.: saying it's night then repeating that it's dark, or saying it's winter then repeating that it's cold (both of which maybe I found several times in this WIP...oops). And while going through and removing them unfortunately can be a little time-consuming, it is ultimately one of the easier parts of the process, even if I do find it excruciatingly boring.

But one way or the other, removing word crutches is part of the polishing process necessary in those couple final steps of manuscript editing. And removing them not only tightens your writing, but challenges you to push yourself in terms of not always relying on the first words that come to mind.

What are some of your writing crutches?

Twitter-sized bites:

Have a lot of overused words? @Ava_Jae talks tackling this step of WIP polishing. (Click to tweet
What are some of your writing crutches? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

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