Them’s just words, baby

In one way, shape or form, every writer has a love affair with words. Something magical happens when the “perfect” sentence comes together. When you get it right. As readers, you’ll experience this moment every time a line or a passage makes you pause as you smile, shudder or quiver…as the case may be. I guarantee the writer felt the same emotion as it was written.

It seems so simple, this combining of words to create meaning, invoke emotion or set a scene. It’s not, but that’s not what this post is about.

In every manuscript I write, I find that one word. The bane of my existence (at least while I’m writing that particular manuscript), the dreaded repeat, that one damn word that I use over and over and over and over and over and over and…

It changes with each manuscript. As if I’ve worn the word out, exorcised it from my consciousness. One can only hope. It’s usually an insignificant word like “as” or “like” or “just.” Words like those become VERY significant when used ad nauseam. As a writer, it’s my job to pay attention (during first edits, of course) to these things and try to keep the balance between necessary and damn annoying.

At RomCon a few weeks ago, several other authors, such as Lauren Dane and Sylvia Day, admitted to the same affliction. So, I’m in good company.

The road to finished manuscript is a long, winding, bumpy, word-repeating road. But the destination…ahhhh…it’s pure bliss.

Writers, what are your words?

Readers, do you notice when words are repeated (and repeated) in a book?

Since I’m currently on a writing retreat and need to spend some “quality” time alone with Caleb, I will sign off with this: Mark Twain once wrote “…the difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

Damn straight, Mr. Twain.

Until next time…

13 thoughts on “Them’s just words, baby

  1. I love when authors really take the time and use words to set a scene and pace it, just right, for maximum impact. I appreciate a slow build to set a seduction scene or a rapid pace of a chase scene. It’s delicate balance and the wrong word(s), or overusing a “favorite” word may take so much away from the story. I notice, and really dislike, when word are repeated in a book (ahem…”gray eyes” = ugh x 1000).

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    • Thank you so much for your response, Michelle! I find my “word” creeps in without my noticing until it comes to rereading and editing. Then I think “WTF?” Where did THAT word come from and why am I using it every twelve words? LOL! Anyway, love your insight and thank you for sharing!

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  2. Ugh, Parker, my word is “that.” Seemingly innocuous, but apparently evident to every editor with whom I’ve ever worked! In my first book, the editor counted 653 usages of “that” before we cut them out.
    I just don’t get…that. 😉

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    • Ah yes, the most overused word in the English language. I’ve had “that” problem too, Rosanna! It’s doubly annoying when an editor insists you USE the word when you know it’s not necessary! 🙂

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  3. Last time my word of the manuscript was “perhaps”. The time before it was “appears”. (Hmmm, I’m noticing a very indecisive trend.) It changes every time for me. I have a list of “search and destroy” words that I run on every story. The list keeps getting longer.

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    • LOL, Allyson! It’s nice to know we all overuse the same words! I’m currently battling ‘just’. Ugh – I’m starting to JUST hate that word. LOL!

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  4. Like you, Parker, I have a new word each manuscript and I always, always, read over it.

    Terri S, my former editor, would highlight the over-used word and then give me a count of how many times I used it.

    Can you say “mortified?” Um , actually I found myself overusing “mortified” in a book. Really? Mortified? Yep, color me, um, abased, chagrined, chastened, disgraced, well, you get the picture.

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  5. Sounds like you are very inspired while at your “Retreat”. I love the way you express yourself. Have a productive week.

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