When I was a young boy at school we were taught to describe, using lots of words, when we wrote stories. Essays, stories, reports, everything was done to a word count. Padding became second nature and as an adult ‘would-be’ novelist, it’s a trend I’ve continued.
There are many ways to tell a story. For me, I like to describe everything; the dream is in the small details. The food that is used to make up a salad, the glint of sunlight through glass, or the scent of salt in the air. When you read what I write – particularly the first draft – it’s all there.
As a reader however I find all this extraneous information boring. If I’m reading an adventure story I want the adventure. Epic Fantasy; get me to the blood, the battle and the magic. Romance; give me pounding hearts and boy meets boy.
There are certain words I can’t abide in stories. Sure there are time they are useful but for the most part a writer, and reader, can do without them.
That, Which, More.
All three of these words give me the irritations, followed by the internal cry of “where the hell was the editor“.
Pretty much any sentence can be written without the word that. Try it.
Look at your own work and simply the remove the word. The sentence can usually be read clearly, and with more impact, without ‘that’ hanging around.
“Alexander smiles, that was when he knew that he’d found the golden cup he’d been searching for.”
“Alexander smiled. He knew he’d finally found the golden up after years of searching.”
Shorter, clearer and with more impact. That is a pause word as far as I’m concerned. Take it out, rearrange the words a bit and the sentence still flows.
Which is another word I could do without 99 times out of 100. It’s a word that is used to tie two sentences together when with a bit of thinking you can easily re-write the sentence without it and have more impact. While it’s true the word does have it’s valid points I tend to find, particularly in independent novels, it’s overused.
“Sarah threw down the gauntlet as she ran towards the closing doors. It was her or the treasure which meant thinking quickly. Either she got out of here now or she’d be trapped forever.”
“Sarah threw down the gauntlet as she ran. The doors were closing fast and if she didn’t get out of here now she’d be trapped in the tomb forever.”
More is probably the most misused word I see in independent novels. You can’t be more happier, you can be happier. You can’t be more sad than you ever remember being. You can be sadder. You can have more money but you can’t be more joyful. You can be joyful.
That and more are, in my opinion, the two most overused and un-needed words you come across in independent novels. Both of which have a limited necessity. If you can re-write the sentence without out it you’ll have a much stronger sentence and engage the reader more with what is happening.
This is just a personal ‘rant’ I guess. To me, when a novel contains as few of these words, the novel will read faster and be more engaging.
The whole point of reading is to escape. You want to pick up a novel and read a story and be transported to a magical forrest, a collapsing Inca Temple or just around the corner where love is blooming and hope reigns supreme.
Anything that distracts the reader is a loss on your behalf. As a writer you need to know when to go full throttle and when to pull back. Setting the pace for the reader to uncover the gem you’ve been working on over the past year or so. Small things, like the over use of that, which, and more, detract from your work. Honestly, when I’m stumbling through a novel filled with those words I lose my ability to get lost among the story.
Try it with your own work. I’m by no means an expert as a writer. I’m still finding my way like so many others. However, I am an expert reader. Rearrange your sentences, cut the padding, and see if your story reads better without words like; that, which and more.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to independent novels?