Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trashcan Words

Here are some words you should watch for during your rewrite and revision. When you find them, throw them in the trashcan.

Throw away “very” and find a word that’s better.
One word I am very sure you should remove very quickly from your manuscript every time it appears (except in dialogue, of course) is the word “very.”
“Very” is a lazy writer’s word. To a lazy writer, water is seldom scalding, but “very hot.” The blonde is seldom filled with glee. She’s “very happy.” The day doesn't seem to last forever. The day is “very long.”
It’s one of the useless words in the English language.
In the dialogue, perhaps, “very” may belong, but seldom does “very” belong anywhere else in your manuscript.
(I’m very sure of that.)

“It” is an extremely vague pronoun.
Go through your manuscript and give each “it” the third degree. Used the right way, “it” can sometimes have value. Used the wrong way, “it” can get you into lots of trouble, which you probably did not imagine.
“He took the cigar from his pocket and lit it.”
Lit what? The cigar? The pocket? If you're going to use it, “it” should take the place of the last noun, which precedes it.
“He reached in his pocket for a cigar and lit it.”

The word ‘really’ is a crutch.
Beginners use it to convey emphasis, but it fails completely to do it. Really doesn't tell us anything important and it is inadequate as a description. Real is a fact, it is not imagined or supposed. It is genuine. Using really as an intensifier is just wrong.
"The saxophone player really performed admirably.”
"The saxophone player performed admirably."

Total means exactly what you think it means.
However, total is used unnecessarily on a frequent basis. When there are a total of 50 people who do something, the total is 50 whether or not you use the word “total.” You might say you were “totally surprised.” No. A surprise is not a conditional emotion. You were either surprised or not. The use of total didn’t add anything of value to the sentence. Please do not tell me you are “totally cool” with that, either!

“Awesome” is always misused.
“Awesome” means “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension or fear.” The biggest reason to cut “awesome” from your novel is that it is overused. Socks, hot dogs, songs, Legos, skirts, hamsters, fish and elevators are not awesome!
Can a hot dog inspire you to awe? Is it that wonderful? Are you serious? If you intend to use this word, it’s worth asking if what you’re describing really is ‘awesome’ in its true sense. If you aren’t using the true sense of the word, there are alternatives like “neat,” “delicious,” or “outstanding.”

As British comedian Eddie Izzard says:
“The universe is awesome, using the original meaning of the word ‘awesome.’ Not the new one.
I saw an advert for ‘awesome hot dogs’ only $2.99.
America needs the old version of ‘awesome’, because you’re the only ones going into space.”
“You need ‘awesome’ because you’re going to be going to the next sun to us and your president is going to be ‘can you tell me, astronaut, can you tell me what it’s like?’
‘It’s awesome, sir.’
‘What like a hot dog?’
‘Like a hundred billion hot dogs, sir.’”

“That” is handy but is usually useless.
Most of the time “that” is a crutch without a purpose.
Consider this sentence:
“I saw that the moon shined brightly.”
Drop “that.”
“I saw the brightly shining moon.” The sentence sounds much cleaner now.

Consider “I think that all puppies are adorable.” Just remove the word from the sentence to make it cleaner once more:
“All puppies are adorable.” Remove a “that” and no one will be the wiser.

Another wasted word is “started.”
“He started running.” “She started dancing.” “The dog started jumping.” All of those sentences are passive and slow. Instead, remove “started” from your vocabulary.

“He ran.” “She danced.” “The dog jumped.”

Any action performed is one that had to be started. If you want to signal the action is a continuing one, add descriptors after.
One time you can use the word “start,” is when something has a definite starting time. “I started writing in the 8th grade.”

Turned is a wasted word.
Notice how much “turning” there is in your secret draft.
Carl placed the dictionary back on the table. He turned and walked to the window.
“Turned,” adds nothing to the sentences above. Readers will assume that if a character is going to move from point A to point B in a scene, they will probably have to turn. Writing it merely slows the action and adds nothing to the scene.
This is better:
Carl threw the dictionary onto the table and stomped to the window.

Began is another wasted word like started.

Humphrey began to untie his shoelaces.
Jason began to stand and pace the room.
There’s no reason to slow down the action in either of these examples with began. See how much tighter this reads:
Humphrey untied his shoelaces.
Jason paced the room.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)