This Thanksgiving, Put Your Novel on a Diet

As you prepare for the biggest meal of the year, don’t think about all the extra food you’re going to eat.  Give thanks and enjoy that!  Instead, consider cutting something else precious from your life–your words–especially if you’re a novelist participating  in NaNoWriMo.

BUT…you say.  How can I sacrifice my darlings?  Easy!  If you follow some simple rules, as outlined in an article about filter words and how they weaken your writing.  When filter words are used, you–the reader–sense the presence of the narrator rather than experiencing the story firsthand as if you are the main character.

Examples of filter words include:

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can
  • to decide
  • to sound (or sound like)
  • to know

Want an example of how they are used and how to fix?  Sure!

You wrote: Mary felt nervous.

Instead: Mary’s hands shook.

By the way, this is also an example of showing vs. telling 😉  Find more examples in the article.

For more ways of simply cutting down on unnecessary words, check out my post here, especially the part about reducing clutter.  And, no, I don’t mean closet clutter 😉  We’ll save that for another upcoming blog post.  Seriously!

Want one more polishing tip?  Of course you do!  Reconsider your use of ‘ing’ and ‘as’ phrases, according to this blog post by The Bent Agency.

Don’t say: “Running for the refrigerator, she pulled out the last slice of turkey before anyone else could get to it.”

Instead: “She ran to the refrigerator and pulled out the last slice of turkey before anyone else could get to it.”

*If you’re trying to vary sentence structure, find other ways to do it.  Check out Resources for Writers for some examples.

But again, the key word here as with all overuse is moderation.  You can have an exclamation point or two (despite what Elmore Leonard says) but not 10 on one page!!!!! Or so many consecutively 😉  Otherwise it’s like making a pie with too many spices, when a dash of this and that would actually suffice.  Just like in life, you must choose your words carefully.

So this year, put your novel on a diet and enjoy as much turkey and pumpkin pie as you want 🙂

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