Category Archives: Author Advice

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #6: Hook ‘Em and Hook ‘Em Good!

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

Worm on hookThere’s probably nothing more frustrating to a slush pile reader than the anticipation of a story with a great hook, but then the author doesn’t follow through. 

How can we keep this from happening, Donna? 

Is your story more than a good idea? It must be a great story that is executed on. Remember, a story is a promise to be kept if you want to keep the reader reading.

Donna’s notes on an actual manuscript plucked out of the slush pile: “I so wanted to like this book! It has a fun premise and if executed well could be a book that boys and girls alike enjoy. It’s a fresh concept with lots of potential for action and adventure combining futuristic technology – BUT I needed more of a reason to care about why this story is being told. I needed to be engaged and I wasn’t. The story fell apart and its promise was never delivered on.”

Wow! Wouldn’t you just want to smack yourself upside the head if this was your manuscript?  Yikes!  Help Donna!  How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?

Okay, troops, ask yourself: Does everything happen with a purpose in your scene?

TIP: Outline the purpose of each scene/chapter and connect it to the story arc and character arc to strengthen the story and move it along. Everything your characters do must have purpose and consequences.

Specifically, write out for each chapter: Main character’s goals of each chapter/scene What the main character discovers in each scene and how it propels him/her forward What we can learn about other characters in each scene through dialogue and action World building goals for each scene Outer turning point: in each scene which things change that everyone can understand Inner turning point: in each scene which the scene’s point of view character also changes as a result

Outline this for each chapter and you will have a guide to stay on track with your story’s promise!

Do your characters have a special condition? Are they a burn victim, blind, or an amputee? If so this must play a role in the story. Don’t offer it to us as a promise to be part of the story and not deliver on it.

Now go. Work on making that hook follow through with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

“Gentle Tell” is NOT OKAY in your manuscript. Are YOU guilty of lazy writing? — AKA “I am really sorry!”

If you’ve ever had the misfortune opportunity to have a beta-read from me, you’ll know that I am a show verses tell barracuda. I point it out everywhere. (As I should, or I’m not doing my job)

Occasionally I will mark something as “gentle tell” and say it will probably pass, but the section could be stronger.

I had a section like this in ASHES IN THE SKY. I knew it was a form of gentle tell, meaning it could have been broadened, but since it was not a super important scene, I summarized it a bit to move on to the more exciting stuff. Since it was the only scene I brushed over, and I only did it once in the entire book, I figured I was in the clear.

WRONG

The sole purpose of the scene was to show where the main character got her schedule from when arriving for her first day back to school after a long absence. This is the exact text from my original submitted manuscript. Mind you, this got past several editors:

Throwing my backpack over my shoulder, I stopped at the office and got my schedule and locker assignment. They didn’t try to rustle me into any more assemblies, thank goodness.

(See the end of this post if you’d like to see the revised version)

As I said, this got past a few editors, but it was bounced back by the senior editor at the final read through. In this case, she was my personal show verses tell barracuda.

Paraphrasing her comments, she said:

“Don’t take the easy way out and tell us the obvious. What was it like going into the office? Did they treat her poorly, or were they extra nice? Give all the information to move the story forward without just telling us what we need to know.”

In other words – SHOW DON’T TELL

I was mortified. Once I really thought about it, I realized what a lazy paragraph I had written. I’ve heard of lazy writing before, and now I am wondering how many lazy things I have seen in people’s works that I glossed over as “gentle tell.”

Don’t let yourself fall into lazy writing.

If it is important enough to mention, then write it properly. Don’t muddy your manuscript with shortcuts.

swish swivel sparkle

In case you are interested, this is the scene that I replaced those two lines with. I think it is obvious how much better the written-out scene is.

***

I slipped through the door to the main office. Four students waited in line, but parted as I walked in. The last to move tugged the backpack on the girl standing first at the front desk. She spun and her lips formed an O before she scurried to the side.

“Ms. Martinez,” the lady behind the counter said. “Welcome back.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, umm, thanks. I need my schedule and locker assignment.”

She handed me a paper from the tray beside her. “Here you go. You have Kelessi for Advisory, room three eighty-five. Do you remember where that is?”

I nodded.

“You locker is in the senior wing, number ninety. The combination is on the last page of your packet.”

“Three eighty-five, Kelessi, ninety. Got it, thanks.”

I turned and looked up from my paperwork. The other people in the office lined the walls, giving me a wide berth.

Did I forget to wear deodorant or something?

***

Look through your own work.

Are you guilty of lazy writing?

cropped-website-1-1-logo.jpgcropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #4: Does your manuscript have CONFIDENCE ISSUES

Get past the gatekeeper

Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

Think GirlConfidence issues? What could she be talking about?

How could someone know if I’m confident by reading my writing?

I mean, my character is confedent, so doesn’t that mean confidence just oozes off my pages?

Ummmm, no.  Don’t let yourself fall into any of these very easy, very tricky traps.

CONFIDENCE ISSUES INCLUDE: INFO DUMPING, REPETITION, AND STOPPING THE STORY TO EXPLAIN

 Exhibiting these issues in your manuscript can reveal an emerging writer not quite confident in your writing.

swish skid mark

My First Reader Notes: “The story wanders for four chapters until we get to the inciting incident that launches us into the story and sets the main character on his journey.”

Rather than wander, thrust us right into the story and reveal the main character’s desires and motivations right up front. The reader will catch up later.

TIPS: Start with an info dump? Move it. Cut it up. Blend in later. Ask yourself, what is the incident that starts the character on his journey? YOU know it all – but the reader doesn’t need to know it all. Be selective in what you reveal and when you reveal it.

swish skid mark

My First Reader Notes: “Several times the same information was introduced, as if we the reader might forget we were told this information earlier. I often wanted to say “Yes, we know already!”

When it comes to repetitiveness, say it once in the right place. Say it twice or three times and you make the reader feel stupid – and bored. TIP: Don’t repeat phrases across characters. Each character should have their own phrases, imagery, and descriptions associated with them that help develop their unique character.

swish skid mark

My First Reader Notes: “We are constantly taken out of the story as the author stops to narrate about Sally: Sally was five ten. She had deep green eyes and blonde hair that was thick and mid-shoulder length. She played flute in the orchestra and three days a week worked at the hospital gift shop…etc. etc. etc.”

Do you have “You See Bob” moments in your story where you feel the need to stop and explain? Well…don’t.  TIPS: *Rewrite this section in the character’s voice to see how much stronger this scene can be told, or show us the main character from another character’s point of view. *Incorporating dialogue and body language can provide another character’s point of view without breaking away from the voice the scene is written in.

Now go. Be confident in your writing! It could get you past the gatekeeper.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

Fulfilling your contract: So, what is an “option book” anyway?

For the past two weeks I have been working on the “option book” as required by my contract.

What is an option book?

My contract with Month9Books was for a three book series with an option for the fourth.  That means I agreed to write three complete novels. (Already done. Yay!) Once those are done, the publisher has the “option” to request a fourth book.

The next step in the process for me was to provide a summary for the fourth book (This will vary by publisher and by author/book. I have friends who have been asked for outlines, first chapters, first fifty pages, etc.)

So, in my mind, I figured they just wanted a rough idea of what I had in mind. After all, they have three books from me already, right? They are familiar with my writing style.

So what I did was write out a rough, fairly detailed outline.  This is very similar to how I would start any book … just hitting on the key points, figuring I would fill in all the “holes” as I write (Which is my normal process.)

Since I had two large signing events back to back weekends before this was due, I shot it off two weeks early so I could check something off my to-do list.  Yay! I felt accomplished!

Imagine my surprise when the next morning I got an email from Month9Books, asking for a phone meeting that same day.

Yikes!

Well… I found out that I hadn’t quite done my summary right. What they were looking for was a complete, highly detailed summary so they would know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this would be a book they would want to contract even before I had written it.

So then started the conversation … Why did this happen?  What about this? Did you realize that this part contradicts that part? What does this scene even look like? Why? Who? Which? Huh? Etc, Etc, Etc…

As humiliating as this sounds, I found it incredibly useful.  My editor was able to see problems in the manuscript before I had even written it. (This is the kind of stuff my beta readers would see later and I would have to fix) She asked questions that got my wheels turning, and we came up with ideas together to strengthen scenes before they were even written, and come up with a few that weren’t even there yet.

Now I have pages and pages of notes to strengthen my story.  Total score.

Due to the extremely intricate nature of the book I am proposing, my next step is to submit a detailed timeline. Since a few things happen at the same time, she needs to see how the timelines run together, and how they intersect.  I have one month to do this.

This is a lot harder to do this that it might seem, since the book isn’t even written yet. Like I said earlier, I usually plot only major points in the story, and then I write each day trying to get my characters to that point.  A lot of my ideas come “on the fly”. Coming up with them when I’m not completely engrossed in the story?  Really, really hard.

Think GirlBut what this exercise is forcing me to do, is to really THINK about the story scenes, and how they interrelate.  I am finding that I need another scene here, another there. There is not enough time for this scene in this spot. I need to move it over here… and so on. I am really glad they asked for this exercise, because there is a lot to this story, and as she told me, “We need to nail this or it will bite us.” Nope, don’t wanna be bitten.

So, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. Once this is done, if they take the option, it will be interesting to see if this extremely detailed timeline, summary, and subsequent notes from our phone meeting help me to write faster, of if they will stifle my creative mojo.

How detailed a plan do you come up with before you start writing?

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpgfire-banner-final2.png

A tiny fish swimming in a pond filled with dino-sized fish. A recap of BookCon. (With pictures!)

It is almost a week now since BookCon. It seems like a dream. Like it didn’t happen.

I realize most of you probably have not been to BookCon, so let me try to paint a picture. While I expected it to be “big” and I expected there to be lines… Well, let’s just say being prepared, and then actually experiencing it are two very different things.

IMG_3886

One of my big take-aways:

The Star Wars Panel - the only one I could get in to

The Star Wars Panel – the only one I could get in to

Reading IS NOT DEAD. And to many people, authors are better than rock stars. Book fans will wait in line for an hour in the morning to get a ticket for the privilege to stand in line again a half hour before an afternoon event, just to hear their favorite author speak.

(This would also entail getting to the venue before it opens, and standing in line to be one of the first people through the door) They will also show up an hour early to get a wrist band or ticket to secure their place in line so their favorite author can sign their books.

And people were signing. And signing. And signing.

"Backstage" during my interview with BookTuber Ginger Reads Lainey

“Backstage” in the press area during my interview with BookTuber Ginger Reads Lainey

It was hard, at times, to walk through the event because everywhere you turned there were lines wrapped around the booths (I didn’t think to take pics of the lines. I wish I did.)

BookCon_3887

Readers flocking to the Simon and Schuster booth

Booths ranged from the small one-table displays with banners (Where I was) to huge structures that felt like walking into a building all its own, complete with sitting areas inside.

And thousands of readers were in those booths.

It was pretty cool to think that all these people loved books enough that they traveled, some coming from huge distances, and paid $35.00 to get into an event showing books, and only books.

So, how did my signing go?

Being a teeny weeny guppy in a pond filled with gold-plated mackerel, I think I did pretty well. There were some pretty big names signing at the same time I did, but people still came (Thanks!)

Bookcon2

There’s Miss Jennifer taking care of the selling. Good thing. I was waaay too nervous

I had the lovely Jennifer Million from Month9Books beside me selling books, and the three outgoing ladies holding up my book and waving people in. (Annie Cosby, Sophie, and Lindsay Leggett: You guys rocked it!)

I met a lot of readers who had contacted me through social media after they read Fire in the Woods. Some came with their books for me to sign, and others picked up second copies so they could have signed ones. I would say that 50% of the books I signed were people who had already heard of Fire in the Woods, and the other 50% were walk-ups.

Bookcon1

There’s the Lovely Annie near the back of the line, holding a book in the air and waving people in line. Her shoulders must have been on fire!

 

When I first got there, the Month9Book Squad plumped down about twenty books in front of me. About 30 minutes into the signing I was down to three books and they re-loaded the table. I’m not sure how many books I signed, but I would guess 30 or so during my 45 minute time slot.

Bookcon4
Right before they reloaded the table with books

 

Not too shabby.

My lines were definitely not starting a traffic jam, but I was pretty stoked when I looked up a few times to see people waiting.

Boocon with fan

This girl was adorable. She came up to the booth while there was no one there, looked at the back cover copy of Fire in the Woods, and asked her dad if she could buy it. I signed her book for her, and about ten minutes later she came running back and asked for a picture. I wish I could remember her name!

Shout out to all the parents dropping money on books for their kids. Kudos to you for supporting a healthy reading habit!

Bookcon5All in all, I’d say it was a great day. I had the opportunity to meet fans, and hopefully introduced the book to new fans.

As a newly published author, I took in the lines waiting for fiction superstars with a sense of awe. I’ve always been motivated and driven, but now … well, now I’m even more so.

Bookcon3Now I’m looking to increasing my catalog and broadening my reach. The only difference between us guppies and the gold-plated mackerel is number of books and numbers of readers.

I already have a very well received book. Now I need to get that book into more hands. How am I going to do that?  Yeah… I’m working on it.

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpgcropped-fire-banner-final2.png

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #1: World Building

 Woo-hoo! As promised, here is the first of a running series of posts to help you “get past the gatekeeper” and have your submission read by the actual agent/editor you sent your baby to, and not just the intern. I’ll be popping in with my own comments. I’ll be in pink, because I feel totally pink today.

Are ya ready? Well, here we goooooo…

Get past the gatekeeper

Think GirlBased on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

 

Mistake number one:

ADDRESS WORLD BUILDING ISSUES

Note from Jennifer: World building!  We’ve talked about this!  We need to ground our readers in the setting, right? Well, that’s not just me yapping. Here it is coming from a lady who REJECTED MANUSCRIPTS for this very reason!  Read on, fine folks, read on!

This was Donna’s feedback to the agent on the very first manuscript she read:

My First Reader Notes To The Agent: “The writer began with wonderful descriptive details drawing on all senses and then she just stopped – and I stopped reading. She stopped grounding us in the world of her story.”

Okay, stop here guys.  Think this over a minute. And I mean be serious with yourself…

Could there be a richness missing in your manuscript? Answer questions like these: Where are we? Another town? A different world? Are these places what we know, but different? What are the differences?

We also need to ground the reader in the story, otherwise they are lost. Where are your characters in the scene?

EXAMPLES:

Are they outside? “The earth was all gravel beneath my feet.”

Are they in a tunnel? “The stale air threatened to choke me.”

Through dialogue you can show time and distance.

EXAMPLE:  “Tom’s house was two miles away…takes a day’s walk to get there…I hadn’t been back since last fall.”

All stories happen somewhere. Whether you write fantasy, science fiction, or even about the “real world,” world building is key to creating a meaningful story. World building is so that your characters have a backdrop to live, work, and engage! Your favorite books, movies, and TV shows all involve world building. Putting the time into it will improve your writing and enrich your story. No need to give all the details…readers love to fill in the blanks with their imagination. One detailed street in a town can give us the entire town’s flavor.

Alien EweWorld building is just as important for a contemporary teen story set in Wisconsin as it in an alien universe. Why? Because life in a Wisconsin small town is foreign to someone who grew up in the big city of L.A. or NYC. If your character puts cheese on his pie, we may understand that’s part of the world of his Wisconsin town, not L.A.

 
World building is more than “setting,” it covers everything in that world. Money, clothing, land boundaries, tribal customs, building materials, transportation, sex, food and more.

Remember, you’re not writing an encyclopedia but a story with flesh and blood characters put through challenges. Story comes first. World building supports the story.

swish skid mark

WORLD BUILDING TIPS:

  1. Create a story bible of the elements and details in your story.
  2. Build as you go.
  3. Inspiration? Use photos/cut-out collages.
  4. Make sure your details are relevant and have meaning.
  5. Not sure what to cut? Ask yourself when adding in world building elements to your story: does it move the plot along? Does it connect to the theme? Does it support the growth of the characters?
  6. Draw a map to ground yourself and your readers, even if your story occurs in one place.
  7. Build worlds that interest you.
  8. World building supports mood, theme, conflict, character, culture, and setting.

Now go. Build your world! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

Great stuff, huh? Donna will be popping in to answer questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask someone that’s been inside the trenches, so please take advantage while I have her all tied up graciously offering her assistance for the good of all.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

 

No, I am not crazy. I’m just really, really anal.

Last week I posted an article about word clouds and how you can use them to spot overused words.

One of the comments, from a dear friend and fantastic author, was this:

Think GirlOk, 300 – 400 times out of 80,000+ words? That’s like what, .005% of your words are the same? seriously woman? You crack me up. 

It got me thinking. “Am I crazy?”

Well yes. Just ask my kids.

But also, no.

I don’t look at 400 occurrences as .005% of the words being the same. My mind calculates the problem as “that word appears at least once a page”.

But, you might say, the words won’t be on EVERY page.  Yes. This is true. However, that means if I skip one page, there might be a page somewhere that has the overused word twice in it. Even worse if there are places where the word might appear more than twice on a page.

And in my worst nightmares, something like this happens. This is an actual screenshot of a page in on of my manuscripts, pre-editing.

1 book page

.

Here is the thing: Repetitive use of a word stands out to the reader. Especially when the words appear close together.

As a rule, I try not to use a word more than once every ten pages.

Say_What

Well, that’s what I shoot for. It doesn’t always happen. If I can’t do ten pages (and I try very hard to hit this mark) I try to not repeat in less than five pages.

On rare occasion, I do go less.  But 5-10 pages is what I shoot for.

Is it crazy?

It can take me a week to get rid of a very frequently used word. Sometimes when I’m doing this kind of edit I want to give up and not care… but the end product is unbelievably worth it. I find myself rethinking paragraphs. I find new and interesting ways to describe things. Being this detail oriented takes my writing to a whole new level.

Crazy? Yes.

But for me, it’s a good kind of crazy.cropped-fire-banner-final2.png

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpg

Even after you’ve learned everything you could possibly learn – Find ways to learn more @SJWriters

Helpful_RemindersLast week I attended a talk at SJWG given by fellow Month9Books author Donna Galanti.

It is always interesting to hear how other authors clawed their way through the world of publishing.

But what really stuck out to me, was when Donna discussed some of the mistakes she saw authors make while she was working for an agent. Her job was to cull down submissions and decide which would be read by the actual agent the authors had submitted to.

No___Pressure

While most of the mistakes were obvious to me, a few were obvious… but not so obvious at the same time. They gave me pause.

Had I done that in my current first draft?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Maybe._Maybe_not._00000

Today, I’m going back to a particular scene in my new book, and deciding if a section is “tell” or not. I don’t think it is, but a few things she said made me at least want to go back, take the scene out of context, and decide if it is a valid introspection at that point in the story, or am I forcing information.

Likewise, I have a string of dialog that is there for the sole purpose of explaining where the mother is. I believe that there is a valid reason for this conversation to happen at this point—but again, I want to make sure.

Helpful_Reminders

I guess the “gist” of what I am trying to say is this:  Even after you’ve sold multiple novels, sometimes it helps to listen to people tell you things you already know. That may sound incredibly stupid, but sometimes it helps (at least it helps me) to get kicked in the butt and reminded sometimes.

Writing is art. Art evolves. Listening to others speak about the craft, reiterates what I already know, and helps me make sure that my art does not devolve into the mess it was what I first started out.

Happy_Writing!

cropped-website-thinner-top.jpgcropped-fire-banner-final2.png

What do you do when your conflict doesn’t work?

Ugh!  I am working off a very loose outline for my book ASHES IN THE SKY, the sequel to FIRE IN THE WOODS that releases September 23, 2014.

Here I am, cruising along with about 100 pages written, and the bad guy starts discussing the reason for being bad.   Ugh_Back_to_the_drawing_board

It totally fell flat.  I mean, the whole idea sounded great in my head. He had a perfectly good reason for doing what he was about to do. I even sympathized with him… until I wrote it all out and read it on the page.

It just seemed… I don’t know… STUPID.

Now I don’t know WHAT to do.

After stewing over it for quite a while, I just skipped to the end of the scene, and kept writing.  Hopefully I will work it all out.

I really HATE doing that, because I find my writing is much more fluid if I write chronologically.  Now, I will need to go back a rewrite that chapter from scratch.

I’m NOT feeling good about it.

Has this ever happened to you… and idea tat sounded great in your head just didn’t work once you wrote it and read it back to yourself?

Jennifer___Eaton

Editing Under Pressure. Yes, It can be done #2

I am knee deep in the content edits for my new novel FIRE IN THE WOODS. The turn-around on the editing is KILLER.

So far, I’ve done okay. Easy changes to make the plot-lines flow more smoothly.

Then I got to the hard stuff.

The editor mentioned three words she felt were over used. So I went back and revised them to a minimum.  However, in doing this, I made notes of what I changed those words to in order to make sure I did not overuse these new words as well.

Ugh.

This is when the editing became a nightmare.  Each overused word I found, I changed. If it was a new word, I added it to the list to check later.

In the end, I had a list of 94 words to check. Each time I made a change, if it was a new word, I added it to the list. My goal was to use the words no more than once every twenty pages. Now, I have to admit they got a little closer than that at the end. There are just so many ways to explode something. But this process was long and tedious for me.

This led to long nights and a weekend behind the computer.

Okay, maybe I did NOT need to do this now. This kind of thing is normally not part of the content edit, but now that I saw the problem, I could not send it back until it was fixed. The perfectionist in me just wouldn’t allow it.

Seriously___Come_on..._Seriously___00000

I mean seriously: Do characters have to shake their heads/hands/or other extremities 94 times?

For your own search-and-destroy pleasure, here is the list of 94 words, and the rabbit trail that followed. Not all of these words were overused, but most of them were. For instance, “spewed” only appears once in my manuscript, but it was a word that I used to replace something else.

My challenge:  Take a look for these in your own manuscripts. Some involving explosions may not apply to everyone, but some of the everyday words might surprise you.  Try to use them only once every 20 pages and feel my pain.

Dang/Darn/Dernit

Shoot

Wow

Woa

Holy cow

Yikes

Sheesh

Geeze

Crap

God/Oh God

Say

Boy

Funny

Screamed

Howled

Shriek

Flinch

Gritted

Trembled

Adjusted

Moved

Shrugged

Pushed

Gazed

Scared

Terrified

Beckoned

Reeled

Burned

Itched

Seared

Handling

Recoiled

Throbbed

Spewed

Echoed

Yearn

Warn

Shuddered

Quaked

Bite cheek

Straighten

Eyes wide

Gape

Hunch

Looked

Spread

Slid

Churn

Singed

Shoved

Shimmied

Shiver

Tremor

Begged

Darkened

Strode

Startled

Gasp

Gulp

Alarmed

Chilled

Dumfounded

Frightened

Petrified

Wheezed

Whimpered

Sigh

Succumb

Groan

Moan

Grunted

Hitch

Shouted

Wailed

Stared

Shift weight

Thunder

Shook

Exhale

Finger

Grimaced

Slumped shoulders

Rub temples

Clenched

Puffed

Spoke

Hollered

Yelled

Called

Barked

Huffed

Sneered

Grumbled

I’ve already handed in my edits, and just reading over that list again made me tired.

What words do you tend to overuse?

_JenniFer____EatoN