Mosquito Revenge – How To Eliminate The Pesky Words In Your Manuscript

Northern Minnesota supports the livelihood of millions of mosquitoes. Don’t believe me? Just check out the bites my family endured last weekend.

Now, with all of the flooding there are so many more places for mosquitoes to lay eggs and spread a swatting blight on all of the nature lovers who frequent the woods. Gross, huh?

Mosquitoes are pesky, but so are those pet words in our manuscript that we repeat over and over. They annoy the reader and take the focus away from our story like a mosquito on a fisherman.

Sometimes we don’t even know they are there until they distract our critique partners. It’s important to be purposeful about eliminating those pesky words.

How to eliminate our manuscript’s mosquitoes:

*Do an automatic search for the following words: that, was, go, going to, be, like, seem, finally, even, up, down, in, out, reach, almost, just, really, own, slightly, still, only and of.  Replace many of them with other words. There are times these words are needed, but use them sparingly.

*Eliminate Telling Words. The words watched, saw, looked and gazed when linked with a description of what a Point of View Character sees in a scene are telling. Remove them and just describe what they see. It is a deeper point of view perspective.

*Critique Partner Reading. Ask our critique partners to read through a few scenes and highlight words that are repeated, or words they recognize that we use a lot. Add those to our search and replace efforts.

*Align Name Spellings. Double check your name spellings to make sure they are the same throughout your novel.  Be careful with find and replace in bulk if the name letters might appear in words or you might create non-words throughout your manuscript.

*Eliminate Most Abbreviated Word Forms. In dialogue we often write things like gonna or have ta to try to sound more real, but that actually distracts the reader. Go to their original form for words. It is okay to have poor grammar words and sentence arrangement to make a character stand out, but avoid abbreviated word forms.

*Eliminate Overused Speaker Attributes. There is such a thing as too many speaker attributes in a book. Variation with action beats and internal thought follow up allows the writer to mix things up a bit. Brandilyn Collins has a great article on When To Use Speaker Attributes.

*Eliminate Adverbs. Adverbs or -ly words in your manuscript should be sparse if existent at all. They often weaken a verb or slow down the pacing of the page.

*Create A Personal Find And Replace Word List For Later. Each writer has some favorite bet words that they overuse. Create a list of the ones that you tend to overuse and be purposeful about replacing them.

What words annoy you when you are reading?

About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

11 thoughts on “Mosquito Revenge – How To Eliminate The Pesky Words In Your Manuscript

  1. stacymm says:

    Great tips, Michelle! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Alena T. says:

    Love this Michelle!

  3. Melissa Tagg says:

    I use “just” like it’s Webster’s favorite word or something. It’s definitely my trip-up!! Which is why I love the Find-Replace feature in word. It’s a lifesaver. 🙂

  4. bethkvogt says:

    Love the idea of developing a personal list. And having crit/craft partners is one of the best ways to eliminate pesky overused words. That’s how I first found out I wore out the words “but” and “just”.

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    You are so right, Beth. Craft Partners are important! Mine have saved me many a mosquito in my manuscript.

  6. Robin says:

    Love these tips. I especially love the suggestion about creating your own list for words we know we overuse.

  7. […] *Eliminate -ly words. Usually -ly words tell instead of show what is happening. Eliminate them and challenge yourself to show the actions or emotions of the scene. […]

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