Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website.
When I talk, it’s more than a conversation. It’s a performance. The words are spilling out a mile a minute. People are laughing. (Not at me. Hopefully.) And when I walk away, I can’t remember half of what I just said.
I’m trying to explain to my child how to do a simple task. My explanation, however, makes things more complicated than building a skyscraper.
My husband comes home from work. I try to tell him about my day, but I'm getting the feeling that I lost him at "Hello."
Ever feel like you aren’t being heard? I have. I finally realized that part of the problem isn’t that I’m too quiet, or that I’m not being clear. It is that I, Jill Williamson, am a word-a-holic. I’m addicted to talking! The thrill of speech. Interacting with others. Communicating. Weaving a story. Telling every, juicy detail.
I am addicted to words.
Just as I can lose my husband when trying to thrill him with my adventures at the supermarket, I also, can lose my reader with my addiction to words.
As a writer, I love words, especially the ones I have put to paper. I fall in love with my sentences, phrases, descriptions, and dialogue.
But often, love is blind.
Extra words clutter our work. They cloud the real story in a mess of extra blather that help our readers fall asleep. We don't want that. Not at all.
Below are twelve steps to help you break your word addictions, and get to the real story, no ugly frills attached. These twelve steps, if mastered, will help any word-a-holic on his or her way to recovery.
Do what you can to get rid of:
1. Adverbs (especially the -ly variety): These words tend to tell emotion rather than show it.
2. Telling verbs: Felt, saw, heard, thought, looked, watched, tasted, wondered, decided, noticed, remembered, etc. These words tell rather than show. It's always better to say, "A bell rang nearby" than, "She heard a bell ring nearby."
3. Absolutes: Every, very, entire, everyone, everything, etc. These are often untrue in your sentence. Be careful not to exaggerate.
4. Passive verb forms: is (or) was going, was being done, was being written, are taught, etc. Better to write: went, did, wrote, teaches (Mr. Smith's classes are taught in the gym vs. Mr. Smith teaches his classes in the gym.)
5. Continuing action words: As, when, while, after, etc. It's better to show each action separately and in the order they happen.
6. Double verbs. They usually don't change the meaning of the sentence: Started to, began to, etc.
7. Repeating yourself. Reading your work out loud helps you find places of repetition.
8. Descriptions: These are necessary. Just make sure you aren't describing too many things for too long.
9. It: The word "it" can often be replaced with something more specific. "It" is especially bland at the start of a sentence. ;-)
10. Explanations: If you find yourself giving definitions or explaining backstory (especially within dialogue) stop! Stop the madness!
11. Overused words or phrases: was, just, like, he/she sighed/smiled/laughed, etc. Do a search for these, then make an extra effort to come up with something more creative.
12. Vague words: many, few, a lot, lots, a little, some, like, etc. These types of words often add no meaning to your prose and sometimes confuse the reader.
If you need more help on this or want to print a quick reference, click here to check out Stephanie & Jill's list of Weasel Words and Phrases.
*Please note: Sometimes your writing needs an -ly adverb, a continuing action verb, a double verb, or any of the things listed above. In these situations, use your best judgement. The point is to choose words intentionally and weed out words you use because of habit.
Are you a word-a-holic too? What words do you overuse?
(I'm on a trip to Arizona right now where WiFi is practically non-existent. Please feel free to comment, but I won't be home to answer until March 28. Thanks!)