Janett L Grady and I are currently working through the copyedits of her story ‘Stay Out of the Park’. Again, Janett’s someone with a lovely feel for language, which I’ve been enjoying. Once we dealt with how to put her backstory into the piece, the copyedits have been relatively minor – just a word here, a part of a sentence there, rather than any more real re-writing.

One thing that I noted for Janett and I want to pass on here is to be careful of what I call crutch words. These are words that slip in during the writing process because they’re easy, they just flow out but what they actually do is hold up the story or weaken a sentence.

My big crutch word is ‘just’. One of my friends calls herself my ‘great de-justifier’ and sees part of her task in beta-reading my work to go through and remove all the superfluous ‘justs’. 

The word that nearly EVERYONE has issues with at some point is ‘that’. It’s rarely grammatically wrong but so often it just isn’t used. Let’s say in a 2000 word story (such as the In fabula-divinos stories are) you’ve got 20 ‘thats’ which aren’t needed. That’s worth a sentence – maybe two – in which you can do something remarkable for the story, instead of it being wasted wordage.

I don’t suggest that you stress about these words during the writing process but they’re definitely something you should look out for during the editing process. Search your manuscript and every time you see one of these words, ask yourself – does it really need to be there? If removing it doesn’t change the meaning, or makes the sentence stronger, then take it out.

And watch for words like ‘nearly’ or ‘little’. You might think you want the character to feel something only a little but I bet that most of the time, it’s going to work better for the story if you don’t modify the character’s emotions or actions and let them flow.

This list of words was developed as part of a workshop I did last year with Romance Writers of Australia. Thanks 🙂

In order to
Up / Down
About
And then
And also
Decided to
As to whether
Currently
Suddenly
Felt
Just
Very
That
So 

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In my (very little) spare time, I’m involved in the Conflux science fiction conventions here in Canberra, Australia. At the moment, we’re running two short story competitions, one with a tight deadline. You have to be at least a supporting member to enter, but the $35 could be multiplied many times over if you win and even if you don’t, you get goodies like progress reports and the con book 🙂

The Conflux 8 competition has a total prize pool of $350 and closes June 29. More information here: http://conflux.org.au/2012/competitions.shtml

The Conflux 9 competition has a total prize pool of $850 and closes August 30. More information here: http://confluxnatcon2013.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/short-story-competition-steam-angels-junk/

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Are you interested in writing? Is your characterisation not all it could be? I’m teaching an online workshop at Savvy Authors starting Monday!. Doesn’t matter where you are in the world – you can take part. And it only costs $25! You can sign up here: http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/showevent.php?eventid=1505

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