Every writer is guilty of using those pesky little crutch words, repetitively without even realizing it, at one point or another.
We especially use them early on in our careers, and even more so when we fail to READ other authors work before and during our own projects. (which is a whole other issue all in it’s own!. If you are a writer: never ever ever ever stop reading. Period. Consider it feeding the subconscious’ grasp of personal vocabulary.) Anyhow, It’s easy to get lost in your own story and fail to pay proper attention to the words you are using. Here are some examples and demonstrations of ways we use crutch words. They are what I consider to the biggest BOOK KILLERS!! And they are tedious tedious tedious!!!
He’s & She’s.
Now we obviously can’t write a novel without using he’s and she’s, but we can however use them in an irritating way or ENTIRELY to much. We can also use them thinking to ourselves that it’s clear who we’re referring to, when in all actuality the reader is so confused they may just put the book down and never pick it back up again. So, how do we know when we are messing up our he’s and she’s? It’s simple. First of all, don’t start a sentence with he or she more than once every couple of paragraphs. Second, if there is more than one guy, or more than one gal, in a scene – Just consciously use their names more often. We as the writer know exactly who we are talking about, but sometimes our readers may not. It’s imperative that we remember that! Third, pick a page any page — now count. Count how many times you used either He or She on that page. If the number seems reasonable then awesome! If the number seems ridiculously excessive then perhaps you should consider restructuring a few of those sentences. You could even consider comparing your number to a page out of one of your favorite books.
Said & Stated
Conversations come very easy to some writers, but to some of the less fortunate conversations are as dreaded as a common cold. How many of you have read a book that every statement made is followed by ‘he said.’ or ‘she said’ or ‘he stated’ or ‘she stated’? I know I have, and it’s annoying as crap! So, how do we avoid this common mistake? First, identify the problem and then do everything you can to avoid it. (I’m sadly guilty of this pesky crutch and its a hard habit to break!) One thing that may help is to make a list of replacement words (that are usually more impacting anyway) like gasp, demand, questioned, huffed, grumbled ext… But, probably the most effective way is to READ and LEARN. Make a conscious effort to pay close attention to conversations in everything you read! Learn from the way seasoned authors execute their conversations.
Often times our characters will do one thing ‘as’ they do another. (sometimes TOO often) Joining two acts into one sentence by placing an ‘as’ in the middle, is one of the easiest ways to help your story flow and to lengthen sentences. But, the reason I chose this as a crutch is because I see it ALL the time!! It gets old. I see it more in Debut novels than any other books, and yes I myself am guilty of using it to much in past projects. So here is my tip: Flip through your book’s pages without even reading and scan it for this particular project paralyzer. If your characters are saying something ‘as’ they do something else on every single page, then you are using it is a crutch…. Please, for your sake, and for your reader’s sake, just stop!
ing, ing, ing, ing, ing…. and so on and so on and so on. Many writers just over use ‘ing’ Trust me its a KILLER, and it’s actually easier to avoid than you think. If you have a full or even partial draft sitting in front of you then do yourself a favor and count your ‘ing’s. Just as you counted your he’s and she’s. This is one of the biggest and most important revision steps an writer can take. If you are an ‘ing’ crutcher than your project needs some very serious and very tediously detailed sentence restructuring. I know it sucks, but do it anyway. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
And those, my fellow writers, are the most common tedious repetitions used in writing. They are little, they are tedious, and they are sneaky KILLERS! So please, help me break the cycle. Lets get these killers before they get us! Good luck, and happy writing to you all! Don’t forget to read read read.