Every author does it–overuses particular words. I have a few words and phrases I tend to use too much: Wince. Struggle. Darkness. Sort of. Editorial consultant Pat Holt calls them “crutch words,” words that slip past editors but drive readers batty. I’ve had friends who read early drafts of my books complain about some of my repeated words. The word “cup” used too many times as a verb irritated one friend. Another winced 🙂 every time I used the word “alabaster.” (Which I’ve used only once in my current Work-in-Progress; I just checked). And speaking of “just!” That is a toughie not to overuse. (I give myself permission to use “just” often in dialogue, though). Oh, and here’s another one I use way too much: some, as in something, sometime, some kind of. I am addicted to the word some.
I’m so grateful for the “find” function in word processing software! Before I turn in this manuscript, I’ll check it for all the justs, somes, winces, struggles and darknesses and get rid of them when appropriate. If you’re a writer, do you know which words or phrases you overuse? 
Only eight more days until I have to get this puppy printed and Fed-Exed to my publisher!

27 Comments

  1. Margo on June 22, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Kind of like ‘just one more thing’ (Columbo’s famous overused phrase). Diane, I’ve never noticed overuse with your writing. I’m so caught up in the story I don’t realize it I quess. 8 more days! You should take a vacation after turning the manuscript in!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on June 22, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I am, Margo! I’ll be off to Emerald Isle with a couple of my stepdaughters and their spouses and friends and my grandkids! Not sure if that will be relaxing, but I absolutely can’t wait.

  3. Margo on June 22, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Oh, I’m thrilled for you! You deserve it! I was going to suggest Nantucket but Emerald Isle sounds delightful. I assume John’s going with you?

  4. Kathy Holmes on June 22, 2007 at 11:24 am

    It’s very enlightening, isn’t it? When my editor read RWWR, we realized every man “whispered” into the woman’s ear. LOL. I finally eliminated all but one to make it his characteristic. I’m so glad to hear that even a seasoned writer like you has to watch out for this too. I was about to throw in the towel. Thanks for sharing your writing process.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on June 22, 2007 at 11:27 am

    margo, yup john’s coming to emerald isle, too. pups are staying home with the housesitter. a good thing.
    kathy, that’s funny (about “whispered”). how great your editor caught it! they don’t always.

  6. Julie on June 22, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Gosh dangit, my characters “smile” way too much. I keep trying to come up with alternate expressions, but “grin” for instance, just doesn’t work for me!! You’d even think I was writing about happy things as much as I use “smiled,” and I’m really not much of the time. Heh.
    Love me some find and replace.

  7. Diane Chamberlain on June 22, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for reminding me to check for “smile”, Julie. Forgot that one.

  8. Ann on June 22, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Like Margo, I never noticed any overuse of words in your books and I have noticed them in many other author’s books. I hope you have a wonderful time at Emerald Isle – it is such a beautiful place! Will you be staying anywhere near “the point”? That is where my sister lives. There has been lots of erosion on that end of the island but it is still one of my favorite places!!!
    Welcome back Margo!! Would love to see some of your paintings of Nantucket.

  9. brenda on June 24, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Thank goodness for computers.
    Have a good trip to Emerald Isle…I just spent one week at my daughter’s and she and her daughters here (l/2 and l/2)…so much fun-amusement park, wave park, a trip to visit one of her great aunts (on her dad’s side)…lots of cooking by Nana…reading, playing…did I say I am tired????
    They leave tomorrow early, and I have cried this evening…I just adore them…I am sure you understand Diane…
    Margo-can’t wait to see your paintings…
    Diane…the time has come…good luck…I am sure it will be great…a wonderful book that we will buy and reread…

  10. Diane Chamberlain on June 24, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Brenda, no, i still have 5 days! And i need every one of them.
    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed your time with your grandaughters. it’s got to be so hard to have them leave. My California stepdaughter is expecting now and I don’t know how I’m going to stand being 3000 miles away!
    Ann, I don’t know Emerald Isle at all, so I’ll have to let you know what I learn about it upon my return. Your sister lives there year round?

  11. Ann on June 25, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Yes, Diane, my sister is fortunate to live at Emerald Isle year round! She and her husband moved there in 1991 and love it!! Janice and Tom and my husband and myself will be going to visit them for a long weekend in August. I am really looking forward to that!! You will love that beach.

  12. Margo on June 25, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Hi Ann and Brenda! I have both of your e-mails so once I’ve completed some Nantucket canvas’s and had them scanned, I’ll forward you pics (will send some to Diane as well). I’m finishing up a Chocolate Lab portrait and once it’s completed will start the Nantucket paintings. I had my sketchpad with me and have lots of small sketches and ‘thumbnail’ paintings I did but these are my ‘notes’ and will be turned into full size canvas paintings in my studio. I’m hoping to have a few done by the end of July for 2 art shows I’m going into. I’m glad to be back home with my husband and doggie Kramer, but my heart is still in Nantucket. My Gary wants to go next year so we’re already planning a trip back! Diane, I can’t wait to hear about Emerald Isle…I’m very excited for you!

  13. brenda on June 26, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Diane-isn’t it funny how 5 days can be so important (somewhat like J. P. 19 Minutes)??? We have 5 days until a baby is born-hard to wait…5 days to finish a book-nerve wracking-5 days until school is out-mixed feelings…5 days until a vacation…hey that would make a good book.
    I am catching up with the house-my husband and I are–the girls left their rooms in better shape than when they came-they reorganized for me-dolls and toys…would love to keep them…we had a wonderful time…
    However, Nana is tired…
    I have hectic summer…enjoy your trip to Emerald Isle–I am the type that likes Myrtle because of so much to do there…but if I were to go to a private beach (semi//)it would be Tippee out of Savannah or Edisto again, out of Charleston…I prefer the S. C. beaches because even if it rains a little, it stops soon…also there is so much within walking distance…I know Myrtle the way I know my home because I lived near there for such a long time.
    However, E. Isle is lovely, enchanting, and a restful place….and FUN…

  14. brenda on June 26, 2007 at 11:55 am

    I have heard that Rucker John’s is a place to eat on E. Isle-but if you are like I am, you like to choose your own places…we are all different…hey I am the one that likes to go to California Pizza (MB), Hard Rock (used to any way) and little out of the way places at Myrtle-inexpensive pasta–or the little quaint places on Pawley’s Island…Since I am a vegetarian, I don’t really get into the eating scene…
    Have fun fun fun fun fun.

  15. Diane Chamberlain on June 26, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation of Rucker John’s, Brenda. I love CA Pizza too (love their salad with the candied pecans!). Vacation still seems a long way away. I’m up to my eyeballs in revisions!

  16. Rob Lopresti on June 26, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I have a file of words (titled “buzz” as in buzzwords, of course) that I check for in my writing. They include a lot of yours, plus “very,” which is a ve- an extremely bad word. My characters don’t smile too much, but they are addicted to frowning, scowling and especially, to shrugging.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on June 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Hey Rob. Yes, very is a very good word to check for, too.
    My characters rarely scowl, but they do shrug and frown a lot. As I’m revising, I’m discovering that they also spend a lot of time running their fingers through their (own) hair. I mean, who actually does that in real life?

  18. brenda on June 26, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    When teaching writing-high school, middle school, and college-I tell my students “You don’t need very!!!!” A great teacher I had in grad school who’s motto is “cut the fat” made us get rid of adverbs USUALLY… 🙂
    Rob, you are correct–very is a VERY bad word…
    I do run my fingers through my hair, Diane…especially when teaching-isn’t that funny? NOw that my hair is shorter, it is not as much…but when I was in college in the early 1990’s (I was in my 40’s and had longer hair) they did a video of student teachers-I really did that annoying thing…it is difficult for me to stop…
    As to the restaurant at Emerald ISLE-remember I HAVE NOT BEEN THERE_just heard a lot about it…I am more the Chili’s (great veggie burgers), Ruby Tuesday (great veggie burgers with marinara sauce), Olive Garden, Appleby’s-great French Onion Soup.
    There is a little Irish Pub in Washington, D.C., that serves the BEST ON EARTH French Onion Soup. I spent the month of July, 1996, living at Georgetown and studying at The FOlger’s (Humanities grant) and ate there OFTEN…also-a little restaurant, The Tomb’s…
    Also-in NYC-one of my favorite places is a little Bistro near central park-I eat there when I go with my son to the Marathon…A good blog-favorite places to eat…
    London-the little Pastie (spelling???) shops were my very favorite and pubs…(went there last year to study Shakespeare at The Globe) (Humanities again)

  19. Diane Chamberlain on June 26, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Now how did we get on this subject?? it’s 7:17 pm. I’m going to stop revising and have some dinner. Wish I had some onion soup right now. . .

  20. Margo on June 27, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Diane, I’m thinking of you as your going through these last revisions. Hope your almost done and can get going on that well deserved vacation!

  21. Diane Chamberlain on June 27, 2007 at 10:06 am

    thanks so much, margo. i have to admit, i’m working round and round the clock! i’m enjoying it, but slightly panicked as i really want to have it done (and done well) by friday when my stepdaughter and son-in-law arrive from california.
    i got the FABULOUS cover for the trade paperback of CEECEE WILKES and hope to get that scanned and up on the blog later today. we’ll see. . .

  22. Margo on June 27, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Diane, I can’t wait to see the cover for CEECEE…I’m anxiously waiting for the trade size to come out as I have a list of friends b-day’s and want to buy it for them as gifts! Take care of yourself D!

  23. Brenda on June 27, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Have fun on Emerald Isle…you deserve it. Hope you can leave your laptop at home-I never can–my security blanket, along with my briefcase.
    I must say that they didn’t get much attention with the little grandchildren…so much fun-you enjoy also.

  24. Diane Chamberlain on June 27, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    the laptop never gets to stay home!

  25. Rob on June 27, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    I forgot one. An editor I have worked with hates hates hates the word “got.” Even in dialog he doesn’t want to see it. “Gotten” too. He says it’s ugly and unneccessary. Such are the predjudices of editors.

  26. Diane Chamberlain on June 27, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    I don’t like the word “got” either. It’s not pretty. But it is useful.

  27. Brenda on June 28, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I do not permit my students to use “got” in essays, but I find that sometimes I have to use it…When one is Christmas shopping, we tend to say, “I got her a sweater.”
    I have my students write the following on their rubrics: that, got, everybody, everyone, no one (you get the idea)…they are to count how many times they use the words (This is high school and below not the college)

Leave a Comment