First, thanks to AJ Hartley for covering for me last Wednesday. I went to Louisiana to research in the French Quarter and other parts of New Orleans, and to pick up and adopt two rescue dogs, that are already the love of my life! Pics on my website in the gallery under Faith and Friends if you are interested. (Pitiful, aren’t I?)
On to the blog.
We all have crutches in our lives, things we do that help us get through the day. Methods, actions, habits, certain foods, coffee or tea for that caffeine high, harder liquids for some of us, chips and dip, that pill at bedtime, pain meds, calls to mom or dad, and much more can be our crutches. Some are dangerous, some are more like tics, OC habits that we see no need to break. I’m addicted to tea. As long as I have my tea I can write anywhere anytime. But when we bring crutches into our writing, into our prose, into the flow of the words themselves, that quickly presents a problem.
A case in point: I was reading a mass-market paperback by a well known writer, someone new to me, a book recommended by my local bookstore reader/bookseller. By page twenty, the writer had used the word smirk five times. Five times. By doing so, he had cheated me, his reader, by taking the easy way out in describing the reactions of his characters—or not describing the reactions. Telling me the reactions in five letters over and over again.
Smirk is a word that is used seldom in daily life and so when we read it, it stands out, as opposed to: is, or, if, of, that, and, the, what, etc., which are words that we use a lot more but that disappear from the page when we read them. Some words to do that; others do not, like smirk. I had to put the novel down and I’ll never read another book by that writer. He was lazy. He used a crutch. He doesn’t deserve my money or my time. The story was good, but the execution was poor. He was telling me, not showing me, and on that very basic level, his work was amateurish. The writer didn’t do his job. BIG sin to me. The editor didn’t do his job. I paid the price. And yes, it really ticks me off when this happens. More so when I do it myself. Much more so.
Yes, I have writing crutches myself. In one novel long ago, I used the word *passed* over one-hundred, seventy times, or roughly one time every other page. One of my beta-readers caught it; I scanned and replaced all but thirty-ish of them. I tend to use the words smile and grin a lot. And flicked, as in, “He flicked off the light.” There are other words that I scan and change before my editor sees my manuscript. Fortunately, I have an editor who really takes the time to see my work on many levels, and she usually catches what I miss.
On of my writer friends admits to overuse of the word *just* which seems like a southernism to me, and odd for her, as she isn’t Southern, and doesn’t use it in her speech. *Really* is another word she scans for.
Other words that are overused by writers are sardonic (which is a kind of insulting smirk, right?) dark/shadowed/bloody, etc. (in dark fantasy) sexy/hot/buff/pounding, etc (in romance novels).
Well, you get the point, (she said with a smirk).
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