You’ve got your story name, you know who the characters are, and you’ve even done a plot outline. You’re set. A blank document is open and you’re off to the races. Fingers glide over the keys as the story unfolds right before your eyes. Went so well, you finished a chapter in record time. Now the real fun begins. You submit it to your critique group, or a partner, a beta reader – whatever. You’ve done this a few hundred times or more. You know all the pitfalls so you’ve already self-edited the problems out. You’ve eliminated every single one of them right?
Spell checked. Check.
Not too many ly words. Check.
You need a few of those ing words. Check
To instead of too, there for their. Check
Here’s where it gets tricky. There are a few words we all should check - was, that, right, thought, really, started. There’s had, would, just, then and when. Did I cover most of them? No! Okay lets check for as, could, all, so and and – make sure you haven’t used it too many times. Check for of, the, he or she when you could have used the character’s name or maybe you didn’t need either. I’ve seen lists of these words somewhere. I’ve checked them all.
Wait, I want to take you back a few months. I had a chapter in for a critique and I got a note via the group email that it had been critted by someone. I’m grinning – really. I’m happy someone read it and I’m going to get some great pointers or ideas on how to make it better. I open the file and immediately I see quite a few red comment boxes down the side, nothing too major. I’m not scared yet. I get to one comment that said “I know you write paranormal, but can they possibly know so much?” In 2,700+/- words, and only seven pages, I’d used ‘knew’ 28 times!
Now I’m scared because, no, they can’t know that much. Hell, even I know that much.
Moving forward to now, I’ve made all my checks and luckily my characters have learned that they don’t know too much anymore. I place my chapter in for critiquing and I happily move on to the next. Soon I see an email, and great, someone’s read my chapter. I click on the link and I open it, excited to see what someone thought about my new story and I’ll possibly get some suggestions or comments that will help me to tighten it up, make it crisper. Let me say here how lucky I am because in the past they (my critters) helped me open a door I’d left closed, yet my character walked through it. I have body parts that move on their own. Hey! I write paranormal – it’s possible. My hero walks behind the woman he’s going to fall in love with and tells us her eyes are blue. Okay, so he can’t see through her skull. Maybe he read it in her mind. Remember, I write paranormal romances. Anyway, my critters catch this kind of stuff.
Today I got a crit back and guess what? Take, took and taking all took over my damn story. I don’t know where they came from. Swear! Just then, really, I knew, as all this was happening that, and no matter when this started to happen, I thought I had checked it, I know I was going to, I even knew I did, but there it was so blatantly in my face. Who would have thought, how could it be? I checked, it shouldn’t be there! Anyway, all-in-all it wasn’t too bad. Did I get to use all my words? *ROFLMAO*
Something good came from this experience though - I have a new word to put on my list. Check.
Does this problem plague you? Do you have a list of overused or repeat words? Are you heavy on the ly or ing words? Share a few with us.
Remember: Growl and roar – it’s okay to let the beast out. J. Hali Steele.