Monday, August 10, 2009

Word Addiction

I know, the title of this post sounds like a no-brainer, right? Of course an author and avid reader is addicted to words. But this post isn't about my love of the written word. No, it's about another word addiction that I'm embarrassed to admit I have.

I'm addicted to "ing" words, "was," and "were."

Shameful thing for an author to admit, right? But here's the thing, like any other addiction, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

How did I find out about my addiction to these words, the ones that catch an editor's eye and too occurrences of them get you a rejection? You guessed it. I received a rejection. I didn't even know I had so many "ing" words in that story until the editor told me to do a search for them and highlight them. I did, and every page came alive with color. I searched out "was" and "were" as well, highlighting them in a different color. Guess what? I suddenly had a rainbow of highlights on my pages.

Oh, that poor editor, having to suffer through my passive, "ing" filled story. I'm so grateful she pointed that out to me. Now I know what to look for: bad writing habits I thought I'd overcome. The hard part is rewriting sentences to make them much more active and remove the "ing" words. Of course, there is a silver lining to all of this. The revisions to combat my word addiction will tighten up the writing and make the story even better.

Thanks to the poor editor who had to suffer through my lazy writing, and was kind enough to tell me what I needed to work on, I see a light at the end of what likely would have been a very dark tunnel of form rejections. And not just on this story. I did the same search and highlight method on a short story I thought was almost ready to go. Same result. It makes the pages quite pretty with all those highlights, but I'd rather have the writing itself be pretty. Good writing is what keeps editors and readers happy, not how many highlights you can fit on one page.

Let's open up the comments section for a bit of writerly group therapy. Do you have a word addiction you're trying to overcome? Some bad writing habit you know you have, yet you don't seem to realize it crept into your manuscript until after you submitted?

4 comments:

Miss Mae said...

I cringe at my manuscripts sometimes, E.A. It appears I use "look" much too often for my taste, and once, when I entered a contest, it was sent back to me with the judge circling the word "as". I'd used it three times on one page.

I thought that was a bit much, but yeah, unfortunately I also have that bad addition.

And I also love exclamation marks! Eeek!

E.A. West said...

Ugh, I'm guilty of using "look" way too much. Well, that and "smiled." I think I finally have those under control.

What on earth was that judge thinking? Being that concerned about three instances of "as" on a single page is ridiculous.

And exclamation marks? Those rock!!!

Danielle Thorne said...

Hi EA! I am the Adverb Queen. I have an -ly habit that would make you proud. Seriously though-I find when I cut loose and just write my first draft, letting it all out and not worry about grammar, I do use a lot of -ing, etc. This is one of the first things I clean up as I go through it before even getting near final edits. Sometimes it's just the way we need to write to get the story out. As long as we know our tendencies...so I -ly my little heart out. Then I go back and chop! chop! chop!

Laurean Brooks said...

Both the "ly" words and "ing" words blare loudly from my pages. Oops! Did I just use another "ly" word while posting. (an "ing" word,too? Heaven forbid!)

Wonderful post, E.A. We all have word addictions. Like Miss Mae, I use "look" too much. And "that."