I came to the world of novel writing with no background in the process. I wasn’t an English major. My degrees are in computer science and I was working as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service. Nothing that screams “novelist”.
There were many things I wish I knew before I began writing The Hand of God, my first book. While it did go on to hit the top of Amazon’s horror charts, getting it there was a baptism by fire. Especially when it came to the editing process. And in particular, words I should leave out of my book.
And I’m here to help others by sharing my mistakes. Here are ten words you should use sparingly or not at all.
- “Very” – Mark Twin said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Instead, find a stronger adjective that doesn’t require a modifier.
- “Just” – In the first draft of The Hand of God I used the word just nearly two-hundred times. Seriously. Just don’t. This word can be used to minimize the importance of something and can make your writing seem weak.
- “Suddenly” – This has become my ear worm. Every time I hear it in an audiobook, I scream out SUDDENLY. This word can be an indication of lazy writing, and can also be seen as a cheap way to create tension.
- “That” – Perhaps the most common over word usage we ALL do. While this word can be useful in some cases, it can often be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- “Seem” – This word can be vague and can weaken your writing. Seems right.
- “Like” – While it can be used in dialogue, it’s often unnecessary in descriptions. And said in a Vally Girl accent will drive people nuts.
- “Almost” – This word can indicate that something isn’t quite there yet, which can make your writing feel incomplete.
- “As if” – This phrase can be replaced with a stronger description that shows the reader what’s happening.
- “Well” – Using well in dialogue is ok if the character uses it. Otherwise, well, leave it out.
- “Literally” – This word is often misused and can be distracting for readers and one of the words I dislike this one the most because literally no one uses it correctly.
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