I’ve completed my last draft of DETECTIVE RULES. It’s now being read by a beta reader. After that I’ll make changes, get it proofread then it’s off to the publisher who has shown interest. This blog isn’t about what I’ll do in the interim, but what I did during that last draft.
I search for my crutch words. Words that I constantly use without thinking. Words that make my writing mundane, ordinary and repetitive. The words that can be eliminated. Using them that many times is just ridiculous. When I read the manuscript to myself, even out loud, I don’t hear it. My mind skims over those words.
After some contemplation I’ve discovered one reason I use words like, just, very, little, probably, seem, like, almost, – it’s that I use them as modifiers. I’m subconsciously afraid to commit to a statement. For example, “I’m a little bit mad.” In that sentence I used, “little” and “bit” as modifiers as if I won’t let the character be truly mad. I’m sure it has something to do with my real life. I don’t like to admit to someone that I’m mad for fear it will make the other person not like me or the situation uncomfortable.
“Was” and “were” are two other words I look for. Of course we all know “was” is a passive verb and not demonstrative. (I so wanted to use “very” in that last sentence.) I try to replace the “to be” verbs with active verbs that give each sentence more punch.
The cool thing about finding and replacing crutch words is that 80% of the time, the replacing or eliminating of such words makes the sentence better. The other 20% of the time, the sentence is about the same, except that now you’ve eliminated a tedious word.
In DETECTIVE RULES I had new crutch words to search and destroy; guilt, (he did feel guilty about what happened to his clients,) breeze, (for some reason I thought the description of the environment was improved if there was a breeze happening), down (as in down town, down the hall, run down, feeling down,). Those words seemed important to this particular story and they were, but not nearly as much as I did use them.
Will I try not to use my crutch words on the next manuscript? I’ll try a little bit. But for me, it’s better to put down on paper all that flows out and do the eliminating at a later time. That’s just the way I am.
Do you have any crutch words? If yes, when do you eliminate them?
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Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and A Job’s a Job in Believe Me or Not –An Unreliable Anthology. He is expanding his novella, The Mindreading Murders about a magician into a novel and shopping around his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. On top of all that he is a script consultant, magician and dog owner. http://www.stephenbuehler.com