Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing A Novel: Use Your Words Wisely -- An Interesting Review

I haven't yet read the 50 SHADES OF GREY trilogy so I can't comment on the books; however, some of the reviews are pretty funny, including one where the reader kept a running count on repetitive phrases and words, such as "blushed," "flushed," "gasped," etc. Recently, I received a review where the reader also apparently kept count in my book ... and complained about my repetitive use of the word "that."

I'm not sure whether she means that I used "that" too many times (see, I used it twice in one phrase) or if she was critiquing sentences where I used the word twice in a row, i.e. "I told you that that girl isn't worth talking to!" (In this case, my usage is correct, though I very well could've had a typo where the word was incorrectly repeated.). Anyway, it was an interesting review and one that friends have joked about. One suggested that I used "a" and "the" too many times; another advised me to use more accents over words.

Still, much as some people may have laughed about it, her review got me thinking: When does a writer know when he or she has overused a particular word or phrase?

When I was at the magazine, we were all very aware of our word usage. Our longest articles were about 1500 words, certainly not anywhere near novel length, so we tried to vary attributions. As we quoted an actor, we wouldn't just say, "He said." We'd use everything from "He stated" to "He mused." We tried to mix things up as much as possible, making sure that everything made sense of course.

There were some other instances where repetitive words were pointed out to us. My boss once told me that I overused "however" as a transitional term. And the copy editors were always coming up with new ways to say the same thing. For instance, if we wrote about the winter weather and used "cold" three times in one paragraph, they'd suggest that we use a "cold," "frigid" and "freezing" to add some variety.

This may seem like nitpicking, but this kept our articles interesting and colorful. I kept this in mind as I wrote BAND GEEK. I thought that my first draft contained too many "weirds" so I edited a lot out. I also edited out a lot of characters' eye rolls, sighs and smirks. Actually, describing facial expressions and ticks was pretty tricky because there are only so many ways to write about emotions without going completely over the top -- so I can understand why E.L. James relied on a lot of blushing and flushing of her characters.

When one writes a 70,000-word novel, it's nearly impossible to NOT repeat certain words. I do think it's important to have some variety, but I haven't yet read a book where every single key word is different. Ultimately, moderation is ideal. I try to at least keep repeated phrases a few paragraphs apart.

This review was a little surprising to me, but I'm open to constructive criticism and appreciate the fact that this woman took the time to give me some. She definitely gave me something to consider!

Please read and review (and count words, if you wish) REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents!

1 comment:

  1. Ehem: