No happy shruggers — Rule #29 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #29

I Love Love Love smile and shrug.  I’ve learned to curb my sighing, but I used to be guilty of that too.

I think smiling and grinning are overused in a lot of writing.  I really don’t worry about it in a first draft.  I let them smile and shrug away.  But these words are on my list of little buggers to pare down when I’m all done.

I just go in to my manuscript, do a search for “shrug” and my manuscript lights up like a Christmas tree.  So like a good little editor, I give my manuscript a present and curb them down to once every 50 pages or so.

Smiling Sadly has to do with that “ly” rule.  Almost every “ly” word can be removed from a manuscript.  I try not to type them at all, even in a first draft.

What words do you overuse?  Do you smile sadly while you shrug off your grin?



30 responses to “No happy shruggers — Rule #29 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  2. Shrugging, nodding, head shaking and sighing are definitely things I need to watch out for when revising.

  3. Guilty of smile and shrug overuse. Better with sighing but could probably do that better, too. Given I write thrillers, I’m trying to cut down on the ‘pulse quickened’ type stuff. I find the Emotion Thesaurus very useful, but even those phrases can be overdone.

  4. So true! People do go through our lives sighing, shrugging and smiling… but as authors, we have to find fresh ways to describe these actions. Just one of our many challenges.

  5. ” really don’t worry about it in a first draft. I let them smile and shrug away.” Really nice. First drafts should be happily written – it can all be prettied/neatened up later.

  6. Sadly, I probably use smile, shrug & grin far too much! I will keep this tip in mind next time I am tempted to let my characters be so cheerful! lol

  7. While “shrug” shows up a lot, my biggest offense is that people will “shake their head.” A lot. Every character in my universe probably has major neck problems…

  8. I just know that my NaNo MS is stuffed to the gills with ‘that’s and ‘looked’s and … and … everything! But I don’t care 😀

    P.S. I’ll care in January when I start editing.

  9. my teens grin and flash coy smiles. I can’t help it. There’s just not a lot to smile about when a dragon is trying to kill you. 🙂 *grin*

  10. No, I don’t like these shrugging, grinning, smiling characters.
    I prefer to describe their faces: the tight mouth, the shining row of XXX teeth, laugh lines, eyes that dance, sparkle, or shine.
    I can’t draw worth a picture but I try to paint. 😉