Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

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No “Filter Word” Parking Here

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Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

There is a part of my writing that makes me actually sit up and enter typo land as their unchallenged champion.

Violence and action. I LOVE a good action scene in a book, especially when it’s fun, interesting and Fierce. When I’m preparing to write my own, I sit and envision the scene over and over. Each persons’ actions and reactions and what’s going on around them. It’s a lot to take in let alone get out into written word.

My first action fight scene is a long one, several chapters in fact. It had to be, a lot happens. The entire story is pulled in, the whole point of it all is laid out and the villains for the next book are introduced and humanized.

That isn’t the first violent action scene in the book, but the first one I wrote. After I finished the first draft it was evident something was missing. So I wrote an intriguing and dangerous introduction for a character who is basically the reason the whole story takes place. I honed and revised that chapter so many times until I knew it flowed well and was pleasing to the imagination.

Writing violence is fun, but risky. The temptation to become melodramatic, cheesy or start telling vs showing is strong. I had oodles of tag lines, filter words and typos in the action scenes. Some of the reactions were over the top and they needed to be toned down to more realistic responses. Sure the science fiction allows for a certain amount of embellishment in the action department, but even fantastic it needed to be believable within the parameters I set throughout the story.

My advice about action and violence.
Get it out of your mind and onto paper or the screen. Once there, whip it into shape and draw the reader in by showing not telling the events. Action is exciting and violence is thrilling, it’s a great way to jolt a timid story or give a character reason to progress, regress or become someone altogether different.

-Sheryl

 

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Carry

carry3.png

It’s a noun, it’s a verb, it’s an idiom! A multipurpose word with a big place in my writing.

Whether it’s the action of carrying someone or something or carrying on a conversation or a container holding something for transportation, this word makes a lot possible.

I had a character carrying an object for a reason. They had it with them when they stopped for a conversation then later I realized I forgot to keep it on hand. As I scrolled back to see where it was left it occurred to me to leave it there on purpose. To make it part of the story. That object was a safety blanket of sorts. Something that meant a lot to the character. Her subconscious decision to leave it behind turned out to be a big moment for her. My point is if it’s in their hands and they’ve used it or its part of the story make sure to follow through with it. A parcel picked up and carried from the mailbox to the house needs to be set down or opened. Why did they bother? Is it important? It could be. That action filler can easily become something more significant. If not now then later or even carried forward to the next book.

My friends and family listen to me carry on about my book. They are my support group that carry me forward through my journey with encouragement. As I write, I carry a character from a feeble unhappy person to a strong and independent one. It is better to have someone carry a cup of coffee and sip from it time to time during conversation than to have an inactive conversation. I sometimes get carried away by my own enthusiasm as I wade through the process of writing and publishing my work. It is my hope that one day everyone will carry a copy of my book in their bag and their heart.

It is an important word but not necessarily the only one used for its purpose. One does not want to overuse a useful word.
-Joe walked alongside Sylvia hugging his precious notebook to his chest.-
Joe is carrying the notebook without my actually saying that he carried his notebook.

My advice about.

Keep track of important items people carry. If they aren’t important, could they be? The habit of wearing a simple hair elastic on her wrist could be the difference between life and death if you make it that way.

Whether you write, paint, take photographs or whatever it is that makes you happy. Do carry on the way you do, and make this world better for it.

-Sheryl

Carry

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

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The rejection letter

A few months ago, before I had any idea what to do, I sent out some queries to Literary Agents. At the time I was more curious to see what would happen. I did not expect anything from this.

The consensus regarding submissions is that it takes 8-10 weeks for a Literary Agent to accept or reject you. If they are interested they contact you, if not you don’t hear back. You can’t contact them after submitting a query.

Some of them sent an auto responder email to let me know they received my query and would get to it at their “earliest convenience”. A few even gave an exact timeline.

Four weeks in and nothing. No surprise, my query letter was a joke and my synopsis lacked flow. Not to mention my work was still riddled with those pesky little filter words. Week 7 however yielded a response.

I got a rejection letter. I was so excited. Yes excited. It didn’t bother me in the least that I was just rejected, I deserved to be for being so ill prepared. The letter was what I presume, a standard cut and paste rejection. There was nothing personal in it whatsoever. What was written made me laugh. Here it is.

Thank you for submitting your query and giving me the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer you the support that you need for your project.  

Though my limited time precludes me from recommending other specific agents, a good place to start would be the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.

Please do not allow this letter to discourage you.  Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published. 

I wish you the best of luck finding an enthusiastic agent and publisher for your book.

Sincerely,

Yes, it is true many bestsellers have been passed on; this is why I didn’t even entertain disappointment. The last bit made me chuckle. I wonder, do they realize they just suggested they are not an enthusiastic agent?  They did to me. They can’t offer the support needed or enthusiasm. I understand they get hundreds of applications a day (Or so I hear) so I didn’t take the cut and paste personally either.  I also didn’t go into this expecting anything. So an actual rejection is something.

Overall, it was a kind letter with encouraging words. The next time I submit queries to Literary Agents (Hopefully that will be soon) my expectations will be higher, much higher. Those rejections had better be personalized.  😉

My advice about rejections.
You will get them, what you do with it is what matters. Take it in stride don’t let it drag you down or toss you into the pit of doubt and surrender. Learn from it if you can. Easier said than done, I know.  Oh and it’s probably a good idea to wait until you are actually prepared and ready before trying. Unless like me, you do it for curiosities sake.

-Sheryl

 

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No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Featured Image -- 9308Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading.  It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.

Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words:  saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.

Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?

First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.

After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.

This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.

Here are some of the ones I overused.

Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653

I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.

Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.

My advice about filter words.

I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.

-Sheryl

 

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