Did your mother ever threaten to wash your mouth out with soap for saying naughty words? I remember watching my brother get his mouth washed out with soap. The terrible, naughty word he dared to speak was…“shut up.”
You can make a safe assumption that I never heard the words most people consider bad enough to be offensive—well, until I started riding the school bus, but that’s another story! I certainly wouldn’t have said them. Imagine my surprise when I started getting edits that were color-coded with all the bad words I needed to take out, words that I used every day in front of my mother!
Actually. Just. That. Completely. Even.
Actually, when I’m just writing the draft, these are words that seem completely justified, even necessary. For the most part, however, my writing becomes stronger when I remove them.
Speaking of stronger, I needed to obliterate passive voice from my writing.
Seem/seemed. Feel/felt. Made/make. Thought. Believed. These are filtering words that I blogged about here. They need to go. http://saradanielromance.blogspot.com/2013/03/tuesday-toolbox-lose-filter.html
Was. This passive verb, along with his buddies had and could, takes over my drafts and leaves me with the unpleasant soap residue in my mouth. Here’s an example from my latest manuscript:
Draft: He was treating her with the same polite distance…
Revised: He spoke to her with the same polite distance…
The revised version not only shows the hero performing an action. It also gives the reader a more concrete impression of his previously vague treatment.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Eradicating overused words and passive sentence construction is something I struggle with during each book. But I now recognize my weakness words, and I use Microsoft Word to search for and highlight each one. I look forward to the day when I address them all before they reach my editor’s desk and I save myself from a thorough mouth-washing.