Edit for your pet words. Literally, the best advice I have ever received. I’m editing one of my short stories and I put the trick to the test last night. I’ve always known I have a tendency to drop the word ‘that’ into my writing unnecessarily, but I didn’t realize the situation was serious enough for an intervention.
I’m training myself to edit in phases and last night’s editing pass was all about mechanics and grammar. I went through the story once line by line with a little help from grammerly.com and then I edited from the last sentence to the first to catch anything that I may have missed. After that was all done, I searched for ‘that’ and out of 8,935 words 97 of them were highlighted.
I was dropping this thing in at every opportunity. I’m like a quickdraw in the wild wild west but the only thing loaded in my weapon is my pet word, ‘that’. A few years ago my British Lit professor told me about my obsession after reading a draft of my literary critique. I told her I didn’t know how to stop regurgitating that word over and over again. She simply told me, “Just stop.” I didn’t listen obviously because here I am hugging on to ‘that’ so close I’m sure it can’t breathe. I’ve named him George and he’s my faithful friend who is a bad influence on my writing.
The best thing you can do to combat pet words is to realize you have one. It makes the editing process so much easier when you are able to search and eliminate the word before you dig deep into the meat of content editing. Funny thing is when I clicked through all the results of my search, most of my ‘that’ infractions were fixed with a simple delete.
Don’t think this is the end of George and me, George is very important to my writing process. When I get into a good rhythm and my words are flowing George is there as my crutch. If I tried to edit George out while writing I would be a stuttering mess unable to formulate a complete thought. Keep you pet words just don’t let them out of your first draft. Now if you’ll excuse me, George and I have work to do.