Overused Words in Novel Writing

Wordle - paste in a bunch of text and it makes you a pretty word cloud. I removed the character names from my book first as they came out gargantuan. Makes for hours of non-writing, non-housework, non-xmas pressie wrapping fun!

Also useful in weeding out all those overused crutch words. Recently, my book editing has reached what I call the 'Search and Destroy' stage. I go through and hunt down all those pesky words that don't need to be there and delete, delete, delete. I never used to realise just how much I use the word 'just', it just seemed to creep into just about every sentence. Now I just delete them all...

So far, 6000 words of pure flab have been trimmed off with no removal of anything even slightly resembling plot.

Here's my little list of words that get used way too much:

Very (seriously overused and nearly always pointless. Either find a better word or chop it. e.g. 'Very big' should either be simply 'big' or 'massive/huge')
Really (same as above)
Just (it's just completely unnecessary)
There (at the start of a sentence)
As (when linking things together - 'She closed her eyes as she fell')
That (at least half can go)
But (at the start of every sentence? Really?)
Something (what?)
Started (she started to think etc. is overused, as is 'began')
Like (metaphor overload?)

To be verbs (Am/Is/Are/Was/Were) can make writing drag when overused.
For example: The bear was running straight for her.
Change this to: The bear ran straight for her.
This is where the Find and Replace function in Word comes in handy - under the 'More' option, you can select 'Find all word forms'. Search for 'Was' and it will pull up other versions of the verb.

And have you ever really looked at how often your characters smile, turn away, roll their eyes etc.? Most of the time, this is sloppy writing because the dialogue or action should be enough to get a feel for the story without anyone needing to remove their eyes and roll them about like marbles.

Rolled her/his eyes (across the floor?)
Turned away (lazy way to imply a character is pissed off or upset)
Smiled (constantly smiling like the Joker is not a good thing)
Looked (are they constantly looking at things? Kind of obvious if the book is about them)
Walked/hurried away/towards (doesn't add much to the story)
Shook her/his head (constantly. Like a nodding dog)
Sighed (that's going to get annoying after a while)
Stood (exciting stuff)

Useful sites for working on overused words:

Word Usage and Abusage is a massive list of words that are overused or incorrectly used.
Five words you can cut
Ten overused words in writing


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