Baby steps – Write the First Word

It is so easy to read a book. Therefore, it must be easy to write one, correct?

Sigh. If only that were true. If I give one piece of advice to a beginning writer, it would be this: join a critique group.

My critique group has taught me so much. I wrote an enjoyable story, and it had positive points. But, whooee, was it rough around the edges! The members of my crit group started kindly, pointing out the baby problems. So I’ll start with that too.

First problem to look for–filler words. The most common filler word is “that.” Sometimes we need the word. Take this sentence, for example:

“It was that dog!” She pointed at the animal, crouching in the shadows.

In this example, removing the word “that” would not make sense. “It was dog!” Obviously, we need to keep this one.

But in the following sentence, we can delete it with no one being the wiser. “She clung desperately to the illusion that she was in control.” If we delete this instance of the filler word, the sentence still reads correctly. “She clung desperately to the illusion she was in control.”

See? We don’t need it. The only purpose filler words serve is to slow your reader.

Other fillers: just, only, really. Compare “I’m just so sad,” to “I’m so sad.” The meaning is the same. Delete!

Look for: almost, slightly, seemed, perhaps, maybe, simply, absolutely, basically, actually, sort of, kind of, a little, and very. I’ve caught myself multiple times writing sentences with the words “little bit.” For example: “They did know a little bit about what needed to be done.” Cut, cut, cut. The new sentence will get the job done. We talk this way, so it’s easy to write this way. Train your eye to catch them when they pop up.

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It’s super easy to fix this problem if you have words on the paper already. (Oops! I just used one myself. Should I leave it?) Open your document in whatever word processing program you have and use the “find” command. In Word, you access it with Ctrl-F. (By the way, do NOT do a “find and delete!” Read each instance.) Decide whether you need the word, or if you can axe it. Once these filler words disappear, your writing is tighter and easier to read.

Here is a link to a document I found on Google:

Go back to your manuscript and tighten your words. Your readers will thank you.

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