Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A to Z Challenge: L is for Leaning on Crutches

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Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.


L is for Leaning on Crutches

Every writer has their crutches. It could be an overused word, a trope that's too cliche, the same character used over and over again. Pretty much anything.

This is probably the single most important thing a writer can edit for, because every writer's crutch or crutches are different.

Editing for large crutches:  Things like tropes and characters come down to knowing genre rules and what's been done in the genre before. As a writer, it's up to you to know and research this. Then, make sure you're putting your own spin on things and you aren't doing something that's been done before in a big way.

If you have a similar character, or got the idea for your story from another story or work of art, ask your self if it's different enough that readers won't immediately draw parallels between this character and another, or this story and another. If the answer is no, edit accordingly. Go back to the drawing board and make the character/plot/trope your own, not a thinly veiled spin on somebody else's.

Example: I read a book a couple of years ago that was about dragons and dwarves. Because I'm big on high fantasy, I was excited to read it. It was a bit over-written (the writing could have used some tightening up) but even that wouldn't have bothered me much if the story had been more original. It was pretty much the dwarven story of Lord of the Rings, with a few minute variations. While that story is one of my favorite aspects of Tolkine's saga, I just couldn't get into this book because it was so terribly unoriginal. 

Crutch Words: Everyone has crutch words. I promise! My group has edited me efficiently enough on my crutch words and phrases that I now have a long list of the ones I know I use a lot. Either that, or they are just words I sometime use that I know make my sentences weaker. Part of my editing process is to go through with Word's "find" feature and look for each of those crutch words. I try to eliminate at least half the instances in which I use them by changing them to something stronger. It's tedious and time consuming, but it makes my writing about 500% better.

Example Crutch Words/Phrases:

Was/Were                            Himself/herself/itself                       Looked
Then/than                            His own/Her own                              Had
Began to/Started to            Just/Very                                             At all
But                                          Realized/Knew                                   A bit
Especially/Finally               Saw/heard/smelled/tasted/felt      Almost
Suddenly                               Tried to/managed to                         Might
Even                                        For a moment

What are your writing crutches?

17 comments :

  1. I have crutch words! Just and felt. (And not the Muppet kind.)

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  2. Hi, Liesel! I read about your blog on Alex's site and wanted to visit - it's nice to meet you! Especially since Alex mentioned that you are a Walking Dead fan. :D
    I hate to admit how many crutch words I have but I'm working on getting out of the habit.

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    1. Hi Julie! Nice to meet you too. I may be a tiny bit obsessed with The Walking Dead. Always nice to meet a fellow fan. I think we all have crutch words. All we can do is keep moving forward and working on them. :D

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  3. Thanks for that list of words. I need to make my own. I'm far too fond of "however" - bluck.

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    1. Yeah, I use that one, too. Happens to the best of us. :D Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. LOL. I think I get into a mood about commas. Some days I'm really good about them, but other times I go through phases of being weird with them.

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  5. I too, have those same crutch words and do a draft where I do nothing but "find" those words and change them as well, as many as I can. I find that sometimes I have crutch words relating only to that particular book, and so have to weed them as well. Great post! Found you last year but haven't visited for a looooong time, then Alex reminded me about you... Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

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    1. Interesting about crutch words relating to a specific book. As someone who writes in multiple genres, I'm sure that's true of me, too, but I've never thought about it before. :D

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  6. When I edit, I have to edit out a lot of the same words you've listed here. Words like Just, Very, Had, Began and a few others I find to be very weak and with just a little tweaking, the sentence can be made so much better. I recently went and made my own list of words to edit out. Granted, sometimes you have to keep a few of the words, but when the word is used frequently, it's horrible.
    Nice read, love your A-Z topic.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jeffrey! And thanks for sopping by! :D

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  7. I have to edit out "then" a lot.

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    1. Yup, I edit for both then and than. Sometimes I even transpose them. :/

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  8. Hi, I saw your blog on Alex's blog today. He honored you for letter L and I am delighted that I hopped over here. I am always happy to find editing advice, so I love your A to Z theme. Crutch words, hmm, yes I have a few. My worst offenders are, "was," which was pointed out by the first person who ever critique my work, so I owe her a huge thanks and I try really hard to rework my sentences when I detect too many uses of the word. I also overuse, "then, looked, and just." Thanks for sharing your crutch tips. I have already bookmarked your blog so I can come back for more tips.

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    1. No problem. "Was and but" are my worst offenders. Like you, I had critique partners point them out to me, so I owe them as well. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. I have a list of words I know I overuse. In the late editing stages, I go through with the Find and Replace and weed as many out as I can. It's very tedious, as you said, but it has to be done. Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

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