Don’t use that word!

There are so many “rules” to writing: don’t use adverbs, write every day, write what you know, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, all rules really are meant to be broken, but in order to break them, you have to learn them first. To me, it’s like a ballroom dancer who has to learn what the rules of his/her dances are so they can know where to push the boundaries without getting disqualified. Or a gymnast knowing where they can add expression and individuality while still nailing the elements of their program.

I found an article tonight on the Guardian called Ten rules for writing fiction. It’s a fantastic article because it’s not only ten rules – it’s multiple rules each from a ton of well-known writers. I haven’t even finished reading it yet. I’ll be bookmarking it to come back and learn the rules I need to break or bend.

Anyway I got far enough to see Elmore Leonard’s rule, “Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points” (#6). I suppose this rule caught me because I’ve been realizing the last few days my tendency to overuse “finally” in first drafts: “She finally spoke…”, “He finally took the drink from my hand…” You get the idea. I try not to think about words as they’re appearing beneath my fingertips but tonight I was hyper-conscious of my finallys and in 146 words, I managed to have only one “finally” by the time I was done. (And yes, I was aware that I censored at least one more – I can’t help it!)

Do you have a word or phrase you find yourself unintentionally overusing? I’d love to hear it. And I’d love to hear how you get around it.

Have a good night all and to answer your question, yes I wrote last night (32 words ;) so my Olympic challenge is still going strong!

Update: Ha! Right after I posted this, WordPress gave me the following quote: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham. Appropriate, wouldn’t you say?

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About thewritingblues

I'm a writer working on a YA dystopian novel and blogging on my progress - or lack thereof - and other cool writing stuff.
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4 Responses to Don’t use that word!

  1. Zen says:

    Those are pretty nifty rules. I too will bookmark this link for future reference.

    I tend to use “pretty” a lot… “pretty quiet”, “pretty sure”, “pretty scared”… I actually didn’t notice that until one beta reader pointed it out to me. I was appalled by the number of times I had used it in my book!

  2. I don’t use one specific word repeatedly (that I am aware of) but I tend to have little patches of writing where a word will suddenly (HA!) be repeated for a few paragraphs and then slack off again. Thank goodness for beta readers who caught so many of these for me!

  3. thewritingblues says:

    That’s a good one, Zen! Yeah it’s amazing how much we’re unaware of our writing “ticks.” Great to have beta readers and critique groups for that, isn’t it?

    Good writing and thanks for reading!

    PS This is the 3rd time I’ve tried to reply but WordPress isn’t recording any of my replies so if you’re getting them all, sorry!

  4. thewritingblues says:

    That’s interesting, Cheryl, that you repeat a word in spurts. I know I do that in my blog writing (I was going to say which words those are, but then you’d all be hyper-aware of them ;) but now I’m curious whether I’m doing it in spurts in my fiction too or whether I just overuse the same words all the time. I’m definitely going to be interested to see what my future beta readers and critiquers find in that respect. Yay for your betas! :D

    Thanks for reading!

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