Today’s Writing Tip

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Back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in high school, my Senior Lit teacher instructed us to avoid using the same word more than once in a paragraph, much less sentence. Unnecessary words slow down your story and thus frustrate or even annoy the reader. If you need to repeat the word for clarity, try a synonym. In many cases, this is a job for pronouns. If all else fails, rewording the sentence or combining it with another one will do the trick.

Using the same word repeatedly shows lack of writing skill and/or laziness to refine your own work. I recently read a novel that comprised a clever, interesting, and suspenseful story, but the author clearly didn’t understand this concept. There was one paragraph where he used the word “hangar” (in reference to those buildings where you park airplanes) five times in one paragraph. It was even more amusing since he spelled it “hanger” a couple times instead. Am I the only reader who catches such things? I can’t help it, but I edit as I read something that is poorly written. To this book’s credit, there were very few typos, only two or three, where it was something a spellchecker would miss but an alert reader or editor would not, since it was clearly the wrong word.

Like I said, the story was good, the writing and editing sub-par. This happens a lot with indie novels. I suspect this particular story would have been 10% shorter if cleaned up properly, saving the reader not only time but the energy expended in rolling his or her eyes.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Don’t worry about those pesky adverbs during your first draft, when such concerns can interrupt your creative flow. When you’re following your muse capturing your story for the first time, don’t fuss over such things.¬† However, this is one area to attack on your first edit. This is accomplished easily by using¬† your word processor’s “Search” function to find all words ending in “ly”. At that time you can put on your thinking cap and replace it with a strong verb. (Thanks to author Jeanne Foguth for this great tip!)

Today’s Writing Tip

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Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to determine if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there! For example, saying “He put his hat on his head” could easily be shortened to “He put on his hat.” Where else would he put it? Economy of words for maximum impact should be your goal.