Say That Again, Please

All of us do it. All of us have them. A favorite word or a pet phrase that gets repeated in our manuscript a little too often, and we’re not even aware of it. I’m not talking about ‘and’ or ‘the’ or ‘it.’ Usually it’s a descriptive word, one with several meanings, that show up over and over again.

I’m talking about actions as beats: characters who shrug, shaking heads, grinning lips, rolling eyes (which is really gross, if you stop and think about it.) Or repeated adjectives: dark eyes, dark thoughts, dark shadows, dark desires. Strong verbs we can’t help but overuse: stalked, pounded, raced, shattered.

Some words or phrases that tend to appear too often in my own works are agape, shuddered, and instinctive. I’ve got one character who clenches his jaw too often, and another who cringes at every surprise. The Most Often Used award goes to “a chill raced down her spine.”

It’s extremely hard to find these babies, too, because they’re lodged in our brains and disappear when we proof-read. That’s where an excellent beta-reader comes in. If you don’t have one, you need one. I found my two best at a writer’s conference and an on-line forum for writers. The key is to not chose a friend or a relative for your beta reader, because they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. My beta readers started out as strangers, but now we’re close friends. They’re still honest with me, so I see no need to replace them, and that’s how it should be.

For what it’s worth,


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