I don’t know about you, but as I’m writing, I do it without thinking about the word I place on the page. I find myself so concerned with keeping my word count within the range I want it, which is fine, but in the end, when I return to re-edit, I may be putting more work into the editing than I need. Chances are, you could be too!
Why, you ask?
Well, because you throw in a bunch of filler words. Most of us write the way we talk and a lot of us tend to write the same way in every book we pen. The content may be amazing, but when you read several books by one author, it can become a bit tedious.
I was in the process of editing my books and I searched the web for the term filler words, so I could know straight away what I needed to eliminate.
In case you’ve never heard the term before, a filler word is self-explanatory. It’s a word, which you place in a sentence more than others, and quite often, it’s unneeded.
I did a search for the word “that” in my document, and one of my books found it 900 times. I was shocked and amazed. Granted, “that” is sometimes needed, but certainly not 900 times.
You know how in reviews, readers talk about how tight an author’s writing is? This is a major part of the reason. As I re-read several sentences, I realized I was stumbling because of some of those pesky filler words. I re-read each sentence several times, with and without the filler word. If it didn’t change the meaning, I removed it. Next, after re-reading the paragraph I was working on, I was amazed at how smooth the writing ended.
The bottom line is, if you stumble over a sentence, then the majority of your readers will as well. Find out why. If it’s a filler word, remove it, provided the sentence still has the same meaning. If it doesn’t have the same meaning, you may need to make a note to rewrite it completely.
“That was what I meant.” Check.
“I want to go to that store that you went to yesterday.” Delete
Maybe instead: “I want to go to that store you went to yesterday.”
I have to admit, for my first two books, I didn’t think of filler words, nor did I edit along the way. Granted, I’m a good editor, but it’s not easy editing your own work. But, while I recommend sending your hard work to an editor (fresh eyes never killed anybody), you can still make the process easy for you and the editor by taking care of certain words and phrases. My suggestion is to write a couple thousand words, then perform a search for each word after you’ve finished. Once the entire work is completed, go through and search again for these words in the case something was missed.
I sent my first two books to a new editor…paid this time, so I hope she did an amazing job for my readers. When she returned the changes to me, I went online and searched for filler words, then decided to post a blog on it, for your sake as well as mine.
I came across plenty of those pesky filler words I’ve been rambling about. There would be times where my lieutenant would say a dialogue such as “Has he shown any kind of anger temperament in the past?” Or the narrative would say “He looked around for any kind of weapon the killer may have left behind.” While it’s not awful that these phrases are within the pages of the book, they aren’t always needed. Especially when each character talk in the same manner. This is one way to round your characters and set them apart a bit more…remove certain phrases that pops up in more than one character.
Below, I’ve listed a few filler words. Comment on this post of other filler words I may have missed!
Just, Only, That, Then
Sort of, Kind of
Definitely, Certainly, Probably, Actually, Basically, Virtually, Totally, Completely, Absolutely, Literally, Really
Rather, Quite, Somewhat, Somehow: “Somehow, he knew he wouldn’t get any sleep.” “He didn’t quite believe what she was saying.”
Down, Up: “I sat down in the chair, on the verge of tears.”