Novel Experiment · writing

Writing Week in Review: 10/8-10/14


All writers have language patterns that they fall into, and this week I discovered a few of mine. The knowledge crept up to me. At first it was almost funny.

“Self,” I said, “why on Earth did you use that phrase again?”

But then that same phrase appeared again, and again, and again until I swore that I would strike it from my vocabulary. Then I noticed an adjective that popped up a little to often. Then a particular character description that I really only needed to use once if I used it at all.

Though I didn’t plan for it to be this way, I ended up spending most of this week eliminating that repetitive language and those descriptive ticks. (I may also have cheated on my main manuscript by adding a little to my secondary one. Don’t tell.)

I always forget that there are words, phrases, ideas that I repeat more than I should. Then I go back and read a hundred pages and am reminded. Though I appreciate being aware of them, my preferred words change depending on what piece I am writing. I suppose that makes sense – different themes dig different groves in the brain – but it also mean that I can’t keep a simple list of words not to use. Instead I have to keep returning to interrogate my own writing.

But sometimes a little interrogation is a good thing.

Regardless, I hope you have a lovely weekend and that your own favorite phrases aren’t haunting you too terribly!


23 thoughts on “Writing Week in Review: 10/8-10/14

  1. This is so true. We are so unaware of our language patterns. I really noticed this when I ran my writing through Pro-Writing Aid. It points out in bright colours have often words are repeated. It’s really about cultivating awareness, which you were doing all on your own:)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Adam is right; that looks like an interesting software. Thank you for sharing it! I’ll have to explore it more when I have the chance.

      Honestly, cultivating awareness can be the hardest part of writing, so anything that helps it along is fabulous.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s funny you should mention this as I’m dealing with the same issue right now reading through my husband’s stories for editing. His biggest ticks? “For a moment” “seemed” ” I tried”

    And as you described, he’ll get rid of one or use it less and then others crop up, it’s a constant battle for him. I do my best not to give him a hard time for it, but when I’ve edited out over 200 ticks it gets old haha.

    I know how hard it can be as I often sit there for minutes struggling with rewording a sentence and sometimes it doesn’t happen because I’m stumped. It makes me appreciate writers all the more.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I appreciate the commiseration! Sometimes I think that editing takes more of my brain power than writing a first draft.

      I have to say, you must be extremely patient since you are editing your husband’s work. When family or friends write, it is a thousand times more stressful for me to edit their pieces. I suppose the stakes are higher and there is always the fear the critiques will feel more personal.


    2. Hi, Felissa!. Unfortunately there is no shortcut or “magical cure” for “pet” or overused phrases. They seem to fly out of writers’ brains and onto the page by themselves with no warning. It has taken me years of struggle to seek them out and recognize them when they “invade” my manuscripts. People who think writing is easy are so totally ignorant. It can wear you out and wear you down. At the end of a day’s good writing session I’m often worn down to a frazzle. And I’ve been at this game for many years, probably more than you’ve been alive. So, tell hubby to hang in there and strive to catch those
      persistent invaders as they appear. With time it does get better, but it never goes away. Somehow, some way, they manage to find their way onto the page! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it depends. In my case, I always edit repetition if it doesn’t serve a purpose. These echoed phrases were just marks of habit, so I got rid of them when I could.

      I’ve seen a lot of series though where common words serve to ground a reader; if a reader is on book 5 of a series, having a known description can act as a reminder of who an established character is.

      In the end, I suspect it is a stylistic choice that is highly dependent on the writer’s preferences.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Nam, you would be surprised after writing a three hundred page-plus manuscript at the overused words or phrases you might find. If there are few or none, then you are blessed or way ahead of the game. I’ve had my editors point things out to me that I had no idea I had repeated over and over. My reaction is usually, “GAHH!” I did THAT! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a terrible habit of combing over my work as I go so I have probably written repetitions out dozens of times. Maybe because my prose is constantly changing I just don’t notice.
        Of course is a terrible idea. It’s the number one reason I’ve never actually finished a manuscript!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I know exactly what you mean. In a recent edit of a manuscript I’d thought was in pretty good shape, I noticed there was a lot of “hesitating” going on. Ripped them all out and replaced with actions, or sometimes nothing at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ree, it is SO easy to do. It’s simply a fact of life. We are human (well, most of us, anyway), and by nature we are prone to mistakes. But don’t be too fanatical about editing out words or phrases; it’s natural that some should occur a few times in the course of a work. Over-editing can also damage the natural flow of a story. Just don’t let a certain word or phrase become so obvious that it grates on the reader’s mind. At least that my take on the subject! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. We need to be so aware, don’t we. I do watch out for this, but kind of enjoy fixing it in a perverse way. My hubbie recently read a novel that he said used the same pet phrases over and over, so much so, it got in the way of his reading, and this is a man intolerant of reading fiction in the first place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be so horrifying to find some of those patterns! (And I’m sorry that your husband had a bad run-in with a book. It’s always unfortunate when someone who isn’t a fan of a particular genre stumbles across a bad book of that type.)


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