Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Naughty Words

I have a problem.

I like to use naughty words.
No! Not THOSE kinds of naughty words! Gees.... I write Young Adult, people!

But although the words of which I speak are not the taboo, four letter bar-of-soap-in-mouth kind of words, they ARE words that will make your writing posse cringe, send your editor into a red-pen scribbling frenzy and cause your agent to loose sleep at night...

That is, if I had an editor.... and an agent.... which I don't....


Nonetheless, the words of which I speak, are words I'm certain you've all been guilty of over-using at least once or twice in a WIP:

was, were, very and--sadly--anything ending in "ly."

I try not to. I really do. Last week during my writing posse meeting, I was [see, there I go again with the was!] so excited because I had gone through and scrupulously eliminated all but 3 or 4 was-es from my pages.... only to find out that I had overdone it with the "ly."

Can't a girl ever win?

I used to think it weird that people actually noticed the use of "was" and "ly" adverbs in manuscripts. I have to admit that--until recently--I didn't notice it at all, either when fellow struggling-to-get-published friends used them, nor when actual published authors used them.

HOWEVER, now that its been pounded into me by several of my writer friends, including--but not limited to--Kristi-freakin'-sparkles-Pritchett (thanks, girl!), have t to admit:

I notice it now. 


I think writing is better without it. 

Look what you've done, Kristi Pritchett... you'd done gone and made me a good writer!

Its still a struggle. At present, my natural inclination is to use "was," "were" and "ly" all the time. But the good news is: I notice it!

Which basically is just another way of saying that my editing process is much LONGER, because I have to sit and think of ways I can say things different, but still get the same idea across. [sigh] No one ever said this job was easy!

But seriously, I love being apart of a writing critique group. Simple little mistakes (like the was-es) that I don't often notice and wouldn't have thought were "bad," can be fixed with a simple suggestion. Which will, in turn, be a great improvement to my writing. This, I think, is the awesome thing about being in a writing critique group.

Well, that, and the social aspect, of course ( :

[That was my shout out support for critique groups... if you're not in one, take a hint and go join one! They're the best!]

But enough about me, what are some of YOUR formidable writing sins?


Jess said...

Mine is the dreaded combo, "was ___ing" instead of just using the past tense (as in, "Mr. McX was running down the street and tripped" instead of "Mr. McX ran down the street and tripped."--bad example, but I've got a wee headache).

There's something else my critque partner pointed out, but I can't remember it right now...crap. Guess I'm doomed to repeat it :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I overuse "that" all the time.

In the past few years I've improved in leaps and bounds after people pointed out that I overused a set of words, but I've gotten better. I either don't use the words or I delete and replace them.

Julie said...

Jess: yay! Another was-er like me ( : Glad I'm not alone in this world!

Medeia: thank goodness for friends and critiquers to point out our faults. Bless them! I've also become a pro at the Microsoft Word "find" function... click in a word, and it highlights the naughty words on the page! Horray for technology!

Jeff King said...

OHHH sister… I am with you. “Was” is a bad habit I can’t break. I tend to supplement ---ing words when I am trying to rid my WIP of WAS.

Another horrible habit I have it: ,and

I connect to many sentences with , and

And this, and that, and he, and they, and, and, and.

I need to stretch myself a little farther to write better prose.

The word turns!

Julie said...

Jeff: seriously so glad I'm not the only was-offender! This is good news!

Good luck with the and-ing ( : I'm told it gets easier to fix these problems as we work on 'em... we'll see, I guess!

S. L. Hennessy said...

I still like adverbs. I don't get why they're bad - but until I'm more famous that J.K. Rowling, I must conform. Stupid writing rules.

Barbara Kloss said...

Great post!! I had the "ly" problem...I writer friend pointed it out and then I saw them EVErYWHERE!!! My page was dripping in ly's! "was" is a bit more tricky...especially when writing past tense.

Either way, it's taken me some time to find that happy balance. (and paying a professional editor!) It's so easy to exist on either extreme, and analyze the death out of your writIng. Bottom line is we all have different styles. Chances are, the bulk of your readers won't sit there with a highlighter and red pen..."ah! Julie used another adverb! I now give her book 3 stars instead of 4!" Unless, of course, it's everywhere, then we may have a problem :)

Julie said...

Lauren: Me too. I heart adverbs. I get the was-es... and I admit, writing is better without them. But sometimes I really just don't understand what the big deal is about the "ly"-ing!

But you're right... someday when we're rich and J-K-Rowling-famous, we'll write a novel FULL of the ly's... just because we can.

Barb: Totally true. Balance is the key. Obviously, these words and expressions exist in the English vernacular, so they can't be absolute no, no's. Still... I get what you're saying with the excessive (definitely been there!) Its all about balance.

I have to admit, though... sometimes I throw in an "ly" or two, just to spite the writing gods who tell me I can't ( : Bahahahaha!

Jeff King said...

J.K Rowling uses a ton of adverbs… especially in dialog attribution.
It can work if you are an awesome writer.

Julie said...

Jeff: Seee! See, see, SEE! Established authors don't have to follow the "rules!" Its just us lowly wannabes that get stuck with the major "ly" critique ( : [sigh].... someday, right?