Hey, everyone! Paul here today. I’m back again with another writing tips post. This time around I am going to talk about removing words that slow your pace. We’ve all read books that spend so much time describing what is happening to us, where things are, and what each character is doing that we lose track of what is actually happening. Hopefully, by discussing some words that could (read should) be removed, you can avoid this common pitfall.
Once again, I’m going to reference the wonderful book, Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. Timons Esaias discusses this very topic and much, much more. For the purpose of this post I’m going to only discuss specific words that slow your pace. As Mr. Esaias points out, this is a book, not a television show or movie. Don’t get bogged down in mentioning every eyebrow lift, twitch, or dropping of the mouth (one of my go-to descriptions, I admit). The reader can’t see your characters, and the characters won’t be aware they’re doing these things, so leave them out. You don’t need to do this, whereas visual actors do. As Mr. Esaias points out, you have an advantage. Unlike on the screen, you can get inside the characters. Use this to your advantage to build the scene, and do away with visual cues.
Now let’s tackle words for which you should do a search and find, and then replace or remove. Let’s begin with the infinitely vague word “some” and any version of it: something, sometime, somewhere…You get the point. These words contribute next to nothing. Sure, there may be instances where they are appropriate, but most of the time they just slow your pace. Search and replace these words with words or phrases that build tension and advance your plot. Rather than saying, “Jack looked somewhere in the distance,” say, “Jack looked past the smoldering rubble that was once the only home he’d ever known towards the rising sun and the future it promised.” See the difference? In the former sentence one might spend several sentences describing the rubble and how Jack felt. In the latter we revealed all of that. We revealed what was inside Jack. Use the fact that, as a writer of a novel, you are able to do that.
I’ll leave you with more words to remove and replace: turn, nod, glance, and grimace. Thanks to Mr. Esaias for this discussion in the great book, Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. Feel free to pick it up for a more in-depth discussion of this, as well as more great information. Make sure to keep an eye out for any go-to words or phrases that slow your pace, and make sure to watch for the above mentioned words. Keep that plot moving, the tension building, and your reader engaged. Until next time, keep reading and writing.
Paul R. Hewlett