Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Just (& Co.)

Ever notice how every writer has a set of words which seem to plague their first drafts? I definitely have my own list and "just" has earned its spot near the top. It's right there next to "that" and "really". I don't stress about these words while writing the first draft of a MS, but I have learned which words I tend to overuse (thank you CPs!!!) and I check every instance of these particular words during first round revisions (before anything gets sent to the CPs).

I don't delete every instance of the words on my list though. Instead, I read each sentence with the word and without it to see if the word adds to the meaning, flow, rhythm of the sentence. If it doesn't, it's gone. If it does, but still feels over-used, then I revise the sentence to say the same thing in another way or look for a replacement word. Often, I find that the words on my list are a form of laziness - or maybe not laziness, but a way of getting the whole story down on paper quickly, and saving the finesse for later. So, as boring as going through every instance of "just" or "really" in a first draft might sound, it's actually an extremely helpful way of highlighting the places in my narrative where I need to expand on something or invest some time in developing a beautiful sentence.

Do you have a list of words you know you over-use? How do you make sure your final draft isn't plagued by words like these?:


even
just
that
really
very
truly
almost
nearly
hardly
almost
about


Do you use websites like autocrit to find over-used words or do you rely on your CPs? Do you have any words to add to the list of words to watch out for?

And if you are looking for a serious solution to breaking an over-used word habit, check out this post on using Word's autocorrect tool in a whole new way. :)

26 comments:

  1. I think everyone seems to overuse "just," I know I do! I also overuse "as" and "really". I love striking them out when I re-read my first draft!

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    1. I love deleting those words too! But then I cry when I see my word count deflate :(

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  2. All those and 'quite'.

    new follower,
    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. ah yes, how could I forget "quite"!?

      Thank you for the follow :D

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  3. Yes, I have a bunch of over used words that my CPs are quick to point out. Adding And, Then or So to the start of sentences is one of my worse offences.

    I've not heard of AutoCrit before, but I'm checking out out now. Thanks for the tip. :)

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    1. You're welcome :) It's a quick way to find those pesky words (just in case the CPs have missed one or two).

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  4. The words that I use ALL the time in my first drafts are "finally" and, interestingly enough, "squeeze." Yeah, that last one's pretty random. :)

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    1. Squeeze is a funny one, lol. I'm imagining some entertaining paragraphs... :)

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  5. Gaaawd, yes! "Just" is a monstrosity that plagues all of my first drafts. And a tendency to wordiness. I also pepper in a lot of curse words, which I take out later. I don't worry about this, as I am an enthusiastic member of the sh*tty first draft club. I only worry about these glitches in my fifth or sixth drafts, you know? I'm doing A to Z too, so pop on by if you like. Today I'm at #621, but the order seems to move a little from day to day. Cheers, Catherine

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    1. Getting rid of those extra words is something I should save for the polishing stage too, but I can't stand to leave them in there now that I know "who" they are, haha.

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  6. Actually, I just do that so much, really. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

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  7. I overuse just, and like Clare up there, I tend to add conjunctions to the front of my sentences. But's the worst!

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    1. Oh ya, I have to watch out for that too :P

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  8. That autocorrect advice is awesome!

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    1. It could definitely add some entertainment value to my drafting time...haha

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  9. Just because you use just a lot doesn't mean it isn't justified. lol Yeah, we all use certain words too often and it is something to watch out for, especially when editing.

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  10. "That" is definitely the big one for me. I use a plugin for Word that searches for overused words, among other things. It's crazy how big a chunk of your word count disappears just be eliminating junk words!

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    1. I know! I hate it when I take out all those extra "that"s and my word count plummets :/

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  11. I overuse "thought/think" a lot. And smile. Every other line, a character is smiling.
    And, of course, "that". Or maybe "had".

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    1. oh yeah! Those are good ones to keep in mind :)

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  12. Great post! How did I miss this one yesterday? I definitely go through with Word's find feature and a list of overused words. I haven't really used anything other than crit partners to identify overused words beyond the standard lists. I'd love to try something like autocrit.

    Two of my biggies are "bit" and "little" ... everything is so cute and little when I think of it I guess. Ha! Yeah that has to go. Maybe I'll check out that autocorrect thing!

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    1. Now I'm curious about what sort of fantasy elements you might be writing about - fairies? gnomes? Little would work for them :D

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