X Amount of Words

Last night I was editing a story I hadn’t looked at in a while — it needed some TLC and the 10% cut (you know, the rule about trimming 10% of the words…that’s a GOOD edit). I dug it out because it was one of those rare times when a magazine was in the market for A, B, X, and Q, and I just happened to have a story that hit all those points…one so specialized that I had effectively trunked it. Never say never.

In looking over the manuscript, though, I was startled to find the constant repetition of one word: extract. Not the typical word of choice for most “I abuse this word too much” lists. For most normal people, those words are things like: “then” and “just” and “that.” If you are Dean Koontz or Stephen King, those words are “preternatural” and “ennui.” And had I not written the word FIVE TIMES IN THE FIRST FOUR PAGES, it might have escaped my notice altogether. (As it was, it had already escaped Gypsy’s red-pen edit.) There was a checkbook extracted from a purse, hair extracted from under something heavy, an item extracted from a pocket, a candle extracted from inside a jack o’lantern, and cat’s claws extracted from an arm. (I kept the cat claws, but extracted all the others.)

It makes me wonder what frame of mind I was in when I wrote the story…what subliminal message I was trying to tell myself. Was I in a situation from which I needed to extract myself or someone else? Perhaps the word was an earworm, mentioned in a movie or on the street and spun on quiet repeat in my memory banks. Perhaps it was just coincidence. Whatever the reason, I’ll be reconsidering the next time I write the word “extract” in a sentence.

Unless it’s Scrabble, in which case I’ll happily take ALL those points.

Do you have a word or phrase that haunts your writing?

8 Responses to “X Amount of Words”

  1. Agonyzer Says:

    I somehow find myself cursed by the phrase “s/he found him or herself…” It’s annoying at best.

  2. Gef Says:

    Aside from the usual culprits everyone deals with, I have a nasty habit of using the word “expression” too often–most often regarding facial expressions.

  3. R.C. Murphy Says:

    I catch myself typing, “Hell, she…” or, “Hell, he’d…” a lot. Another problem is cursing. My characters are very adult and think in angry adult terms. This leads to a streak of blue across my screen. Usually I leave them until the first heavy edit then pop in something else, unless the situation really calls for a four-letter word.

  4. Michele Lee Says:

    Things “weigh” on my characters often. I read a book once where the over used words was anemic, which was a shame. It was a powerful image at first.

  5. savagemouse Says:

    I seem to use variations of “seem” a lot. It seems, he seemed, they all seem… It’s a bad habit I’ve been trying very hard to break but it seems to keep coming back. D’oh!

  6. Rodney Says:

    I have a tendency to compare things to India Ink far too often for my liking. Where did I pick India Ink up from? ‘Castle’ the show. Therefore, I blame Nathan Fillion!

  7. Laura Says:

    I overuse the word “so”. It’s something I’ve had trouble with for a while.

  8. Princess Alethea Says:

    These are all really great words & phrases…thank you all for sharing!!

Leave a Reply