varied words

When I read Judy Penz Sheluk’s Behind the Rewrite post, I chuckled as boy, does it ring true! We all have crutch words and phrases that we rely on when we’re talking to others. It drives me crazy when I listen to myself in a podcast interview and hear myself say “you know.” Writers also have to worry about using crutch words in their books. One of my favorite, (okay, overused) words in my own fiction is “as.”  As a developmental editor, I’ve discovered that EVERY writer has their favorite overused words. Judy’s post is a great lesson for beginner writers and a terrific reminder for seasoned authors.

It was while golfing this past summer that I first noticed it. Every time one of my foursome hit an errant shot—and there were many—she’d say, “Are you kidding me?” At first, I found it amusing. After a while, I started counting the number of times she’d say it. I stopped at seventeen.

I remember thinking, at the time, that I could never get away with that in a novel. True, characters have quirks, and dialogue needs to be authentic, but too many “Are you kidding me’s” and the reader is going to find it distracting at best, and annoying at worst. 

That thought was firmly in my mind when I was rereading Where There’s A Will, the third and final book in my Glass Dolphin cozy mystery series, before sending out ARCs and getting the manuscript ready for my proofreader. 

Because I’d already read the book more times than I cared to remember, and because it had gone through four beta readers, I didn’t expect to find any instances of “Are you kidding me?” and I didn’t. What I did find was an inordinate number of “given this or that…” And when I say inordinate I mean twenty-nine. How had I missed those? How had everyone else?

Since the “givens” were scattered throughout the book, I’m going to share six examples, before and after. 

Example #1

Before: The break-up with Hudson had caused a few minor ripples in Emily’s life, given that she had recently become engaged to his best friend, Luke Surmanski, but it was nothing they couldn’t work around.

After: The break-up with Hudson had caused a few minor ripples in Emily’s life. She had recently become engaged to his best friend, Luke Surmanski, but it was nothing they couldn’t work around.

Example #2

Before: Emily had hesitated at first, given what she knew about the property’s history. How many people wanted to buy a house where the owner had been murdered, especially since the case had never been solved?

After: Didn’t change a word. Some “givens” are okay, and I thought it worked well in this instance.

Example #3

Before: Emily didn’t believe him, given that he was the CEO of Pemberton Productions and his TV show had been a ratings winner for the past five seasons.

After: Emily didn’t believe him. He was the CEO of Pemberton Productions and his TV show had been a ratings winner for the past five seasons.

Example #4

Before: Arabella wanted to laugh out loud. Trust Poppy to refer to a murder as a “circumstance.” Then again, maybe she was being a hypocrite, given that she’d just signed a contract with Faye Everett.

After: Arabella wanted to laugh out loud. Trust Poppy to refer to a murder as a “circumstance.” Then again, maybe she was being a hypocrite, since she’d just signed a contract with Faye Everett.

Example #5

Before: In Arabella’s experience, all secrets tended to weigh heavily, given enough time and perspective.

After: In Arabella’s experience, all secrets tended to weigh heavily, with enough time and perspective.

Example #6

Before: They agreed to split up, Levon staying at the Hadley house to finish the appraisal, time being of the essence given this latest set of circumstances, and Arabella charged with finding a lawyer.

After: They agreed to split up, Levon staying at the Hadley house to finish the appraisal, time being of the essence with this latest set of circumstances, and Arabella charged with finding a lawyer.

overused words

Want To Read The Book?

Emily Garland is getting married and looking for the perfect forever home. When the old, and some say haunted, Hadley house comes up for sale, she’s convinced it’s “the one.” The house is also perfect for reality TV star Miles Pemberton and his new series, House Haunters. Emily will fight for her dream home, but Pemberton’s pockets are deeper than Emily’s, and he’ll stretch the rules to get what he wants.

While Pemberton racks up enemies all around Lount’s Landing, Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s partner at the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, has been hired to appraise the contents of the estate, along with her ex-husband, Levon. Could the feuding beneficiaries decide there’s a conflict of interest? Could Pemberton?

Things get even more complicated when Arabella and Levon discover another will hidden inside the house, and with it, a decades-old secret. Can the property stay on the market? And if so, who will make the winning offer: Emily or Miles Pemberton?

Buy it on:

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More About Judy

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans and Heartbreaks & Half-truths, which she also edited. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Chair on the Board of Directors. 

Visit her around the web:

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Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

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