Monday, August 19, 2013

Writing Regurgitation

Good Morning. I believe I'm back to the blogosphere; Monster's in school, I have a schedule once again. I hope everyone had a great summer. As you can see, I decided to retrofit my blog. I kept my lighthouse on the side, but I needed a change. So here it is.

Anyway, two things happened in my little world recently -- I came up on my second anniversary of having my first book published -- and I critiqued a fantastic book. Singularly, those two things have nothing in common, but put together I found something that really made me go hmmmm.

While critting the manuscript, I noticed the author used the same few phrases over and over again. We all do. It's a crutch when our brain is firing and we're writing 90 mph.

Which in turn made me think about the phrases I use in my own books. One of my favorites that I constantly use is "made her way to" as in the character walked somewhere. "Mary made her way to the front of the class." Yes, it's okay. I'm sure other authors do it all the time. But once my critter told me about it I stopped doing it. Went into all my manuscripts (published or not) took them out, and put in better action verbs.

One of the other things I found in critiquing that particular manuscript was the overuse of certain words. And I'm not talking "just" or "really" or "was", I'm talking words like "perambulated" and "absconded" and "slighted". And no, this isn't an historical work where those words would sound okay. This was a contemporary so they stood out to me.

In my view, using words like this once is okay. It's great as far as I'm concerned. They're words you don't usually see every day or use in your own vocabulary. But reading them 4, 6, 8 times within the same tome, they get a little redundant, and we don't want to lose the reader. Right?

Now there's always a debate raging somewhere on using 25 cent words when we write. Some authors do it to show off. Others do it because they have high IQ's and that's the way they normally speak. I sometimes use 25 cent words because I've recently found them and I like them and I want other people to know about them. For instance "insouciance". It means "carefree indifference". Now I didn't know that. But I liked that word. And I know I'm going to use it in my next book.

When I was reading Regency romances all those many years ago (bodice rippers as it were), there was one author who constantly used the word "peregrination" (wander about on foot). Her characters would peregrinate all over the place. At least once in every other chapter. And in ALL her books. It drove me nuts.

And yes, I have used that particular word. But only in one book. Okay maybe two. BUT, only two. And I never used it twice in the SAME book.

I don't know why I feel this way about certain words. I know I never learned a particular "rule" about not using BIG words more than once in a manuscript. I think it's because as a reader, I've learned things that drive me crazy and so I don't want to drive my own readers crazy.

Tell me -- Do you use the same words or phrases in your writing? Is it a first-draft crutch and then you go back and fix them? Or do you not see them until someone points them out to you? How about BIG words? Do you use them again and again? Or do you use them sparingly?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

26 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

LOL. Those are weasel words. I know what mine are so I actively look for them during edits.

Re: Big words
I always called them $10 words. Must be inflation. :)

I think a lot depends on the story and the audience you're trying to reach. If the characters are well-educated I'd expect them to throw in a few high-dollar words.

But if you're trying to reach the biggest audience, you go the James Patterson way and use language any 8th grader would know. This is one of his secrets for mass appeal. Anyone can read him.

Anne Gallagher said...

Maria -- LOL inflation! You betcha'. I don't think I've ever read anything by James Patterson, but I can see what you're saying. I have read some books in the Regency genre that have crappy reviews but are in the top 100 so they sell. (You know Regency is a tough genre to write. Sticklers for accuracy abound.) But these "less than" books I guess, you're right, appeal to a mass market.

I guess I'll throw all my writing rules out the window and write how I want to. Weasal words and all. lol

R. Mac Wheeler said...


Like the new picture

My overused words are mostly four-letters long. ergggg

J.B. Chicoine said...

Love the mountain view!

Well, you know I overuse certain phrases, even when I can pick them out in someone else's writing. There is nothing like objectivity. And I do occasionally use a big word here and there, sometimes twice, but it's usually a word I have integrated with my regular vocabulary and don't necessarily think of them as 25 cent words. I am taking your advise to use them sparingly.

As far as reading big words in novels, a few here and there don't bother me--that's how I learn some new and pretty nifty words!

Linda G. said...

Love your new header! :)

Yeah, I constantly battle my natural tendency to overuse certain words. I run a search-and-destroy on "just" and "really" for every ms before sending it out to CPs. It's tough, though, because sometimes you really just neeeeed to use those words. ;)

Em-Musing said...

Yes, I use some words over and over, but change them during editing. If I'm reading a book with 25 cent words, I would appreciate it if at the bottom of the page, there would be a definition. I love learning new words, but I HATE having to look them up in the dictionary. You can call me lazy, but really I hate this kind of interruption when I'm in the middle of a great story and of course I'm thinking this is a word I must/should know.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Welcome back! The new header looks great.

In my first draft, I don't care what words I use. I just care about the story getting written. But I do know what my most popular phrases are and that I tend to start sentences with But, And, and Or. Those I worry about when I edit the book.

However, I have been known to add in those big words one too many times. I liked the word akimbo, but apparently I drove my daughter crazy with its usage. I try not to use that word so much anymore.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I think all writers have favorite words or phrases. I do use large and different words, but sparingly.

It's hard to break a ($25 or even $10, lol) word you normally use everyday into smaller words. Notice I said words, plural because that one large word says it succinctly whereas substituting it may involve more than one. sigh...

Sia McKye Over Coffee

jabblog said...

Repetition is a trap for the unwary. I know one author whose character 'rolled her eyes' so much they must have been marbles. Such repetition gets in the way of the story, like the teacher who says, 'Well' so often that you end up counting them rather than learning anything.
Love your new header . . .

Liza said...

The header is beautiful although of course you know I love the lighthouse. My characters shake their heads a lot during early drafts...not the same words always, but the same action. I have to cure them of that.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

A writer can come up with a new and refreshing expression, but if he overuses it, the fresh can quickly turn stale. A writer friend described his MC's hair as being the color of a new penny. Neat, huh? But then he used the same description for half a dozen other things in his book.

Thanks to him, I don't overuse figures of speech I mint myself, but simple everyday words sometimes try to trip me,

Anne Gallagher said...

Mac -- Thanks. It's a pic from where I live. And I've never known you to use a four letter word in any of your ms. unless it's ogre. lol

Bridget -- It was just the profundity of reading the manuscript. Not all words are bad, and I love your words. However, I also took into consideration it was probably one of your first manuscripts, so the "newbie" in you was showing, just a little. I love your covers too. Perfectly perfect.

Linda -- I hear you on just and really, but my latest one is "well". I seem to use it to begin every sentence. ARGH!!

Leigh -- I sometimes use the big words, but I don't mind looking them up. I think it's good to get a new word in my vocabulary.

Stacy -- Thanks. Akimbo. Now that's a word I would never think of using. Maybe I will. It's fun.

Sia -- I hear you on the plural words. Sometimes breaking it down will lead to more of a mess. Why say sad and disheartened when despondent will do.

Janice -- Uh oh. My characters try not to roll their eyes more than once in any given story. Or the hero rakes his hand through his hair. And like I said above, "well" has become my new buzzword in my ms. I have to get over that.

Liza -- Thanks. I kep the lighthouse and the seagull on the side bar. I can't let go of them completely. I'll always be an ocean girl at heart. Shaking heads, like rolling eyes, or raising brows, is just something we all do. And in writing, I think it just happens naturally. Of course, having it happen too many times will make the reader think everyone has Parkinsons.

Susan -- A new penny. That is nice. But yeah, overused kills it. It's not a novelty anymore but a crutch.

Jay Sims said...

Great post...dare I say Food For Thought. (ouch) I am guilty of repeating cliched phrases. I routinely scour my writing and free it from them. As for "big" words...I despise them. A friend of mine wrote a vanity press book, and one would swear that he held a thesaurus close by throughout the story, which, if one was to read it, would need a thesaurus! Myself...excessive alliteration...and I often have to backtrack and undo much of my cleverly crafted yet crude creations. (I had a mini memoir published in a lit mag, and the opening line contained "Mighty Morpheus" in the drug-a-log. I cringe when I read it now, and I wish they would have stopped me!

Shelley Sly said...

Great to see you, Anne. Hope you enjoyed your summer.

I don't have a particularly expansive vocabulary, but I write for ages 9-12, so I guess I can get away with smaller words. Not that I dumb down my prose or anything, but I can get away with not using any words that the average adult would have to look up in the dictionary.

I do like the word "insouciance" though. That's a neat one.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I rarely ever use those 25 cent words in my books. I always feel dumb when I do it, like I'm trying to show off or something. If it fits, I'll do it, but so far nothing has (that I'm aware of anyway!) Good to see you back. Isn't school great? :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Jay -- Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately I do have a thesaurus handy when I write. Although not necessarily for the "big" words, but different variations.

Shelly -- I think writing for kids is different than adults. They haven't matured enough to appreciate vocabulary. You know, like dude, it's wicked groovy when you can elucidate your brain waves. lol

Michelle -- I don't think you should feel dumb. And I don't think you should feel like you're showing off. Sometimes a big word is necessary, sometimes not, but if you know what they mean and use them in your everyday life, then why not I say.

And yes, school is wonderful!

Bish Denham said...

I'm sure I'm partial to some words and phrases which I hope my betas make me aware of. I do occasionally throw in an expensive word mostly because I want to. Also, I think it's important (especially when writing for children) that I not be afraid to stretch a reader's brain cells. I don't like the idea of dumbing down. I prefer clevering up.

Bish Denham said...

PS. LOVE your new look! Beautiful picture.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Anne, thanks for stopping by my blog. Wanted to tell you about a program called Grammerly. Some of my friends have used it to run their manuscripts through to pick up overused words and other mistakes. It's free for 14 days and then you have to buy it, or that's my understanding. I have not used it. Anyway, for anyone who thinks getting a manuscript ready to publish is easy, I say a big HA. Writing the story is the most fun. Then those first few rewrites can still be fun. The final edits not so much. The good part is we learns so much with each book that they just get better. Here's to our becoming "great." Hugs, B

B. WHITTINGTON said...

PS learn/s - duh as I said I'm still learning and learning to slow down is something I need to look at!

Munir said...

Yeah, I don't think it is a good thing to repeat similar or same lines. That makes the book seem like part of series.

Elliot Grace said...

...tell me, Anne, would that be the hill country down in Carolina? Truly breathtaking.

Guilty as charged on repeating those pesky favorites in first drafts, as I believe all writers are. The trick is in the edits, catch 'em and kill 'em ;)

In the end we're only human, and won't get to all of them no matter how many rounds of editing we stumble through, but tidying things up can only help. I recently finished a monstrous King novel that was piled knee-deep with repeats...and yes, it spent many a month atop the best seller list.

Life is interesting, for sure.

El

Al said...

I tend to keep my writing plain & simple. That said if a character is the type to use such words then I use them in their dialogue.

Al said...

I tend to keep my writing plain & simple. That said if a character is the type to use such words then I use them in their dialogue.

Al said...

I tend to keep my writing plain & simple. That said if a character is the type to use such words then I use them in their dialogue.

Al said...

I tend to keep my writing plain & simple. That said if a character is the type to use such words then I use them in their dialogue.