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  • Kurt Dinan

Piecemeal Manifesto #4 Addendum: A Sixth Rule for Revising–Weed Words

I’m officially coining a phrase here–“Weed words.” These are the words you find yourself using over and over again as you write. Because it’s easy to get into a habit, isn’t it? So you use a word or phrase once as you’re writing, then suddenly you look up and, shit, you’ve used it a bunch, like it’s…brace yourself…a weed infesting your novel.

Even the best writers do it. I remember teaching Frankenstein and thinking, “Wow, Mary really loves the word “benevolent.” Someone else must’ve noticed too because there’s a site that lists all 22 instances.

When I’m writing, I don’t like to break momentum, so instead of revising as I go, I save it for the end. As I write, I keep a list of changes I know I’ll need to make–plot inconsistencies, characterization, etc.–and along with that I’ll include weed words I’m aware of. When I revise, cutting back on these words is the final step of the process for me. Microsoft Word’s Search in Document is my best friend when I do this. In fact, when I spent Sunday and Monday de-weeding my novel. Some of the heaviest work:

Nod – (BR (Before Revision)–32 times / AR (After Revision)–7) Oh man, this is my go-to when I need a quick piece of exposition to break up a conversation, as in “Bill nods” or something like that. Almost all of them could be, and were, cut.

Know – (BR–267 / AR–207) I tend to use this when I’m writing in first person and am writing the narrator’s thoughts. It may look as if a lot of “know”s stayed, but they were in a different context, sort of.

Face – (BR–65 / AR–40) Yeah, this is ugly. I kept writing sentences like, “Ellie’s face goes sour” or similar (meh) sentences.

Go – (BR–162 / AR–104) This word, along with “goes” showed up a ton mostly because I got into the habit of writing sentences like the example above.

I expect…but instead (BR–8 / AR—2) This was a weird one. I kept using this sentence construction, writing things like, “I expect my parents to throw me out the window the moment the police lead them into the room, but instead…”

God – (BR–35 / AR–21) Lots of sentences started with this. Not as much anymore.

Dick (BR–15 / AR–8) No, not the name, but the expletive. I had a lot of characters using this word to describe other people, specifically one in general, but we all have our our slang terms for people we don’t like, don’t we? So I made everyone’s term specific to him or her.

Just (BR–315 / AR–?) I was just reminded by my friend and writer Robin Reul (go to her blog HERE) about this weed word, and darn it, I realized I hadn’t checked for it before turning in my revision. 315 times?! Oh man, thank goodness for my forthcoming copy edit revision. (And look, “just” showed up as the third word in this entry! Ugh!)

What weed words do you find yourself over-using when you write?

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