Friday, November 4, 2016

4 30+ Words To Watch Out For As You Write

November is NaNoWriMo, which formally or informally has a lot of us (including me) scrambling to get words down on a page as quickly as we possibly can. But not all words are created equal, so today's post is from the lovely Liza Wiemer, author of one of my favorite books, HELLO? Liza is offering up her list of words that uselessly add to word count. 

Looking at this list, I have to say that they actually do much more than that. These words tend to add distance between our characters and the reader. Many of them aren't easy to edit out later either, because they're what I call tip-of-the-iceberg words, words that signal that, as a writer, I haven't dug deep enough for the impressions of what the character is actually experiencing. Sensory impressions that follow these words are often the easy impressions that won't surprise the reader, and therefore won't win you any readers. When you find yourself writing these words in your manuscript, use the opportunity to think and feel and envision what your character is experiencing more deeply. Your manuscript will thank you for it!

Words and Phrases Often Unnecessary in Writing Fiction

By Liza Wiemer

I put together a basic list of words and phrases that bog down your writing. These are simple examples. Make sure your stories are rich with description.

To see

She saw the boy run into the street to retrieve the ball without looking both ways. 
Better: The boy darted into the street to retrieve his ball, forcing the cyclist to swerve into the curb. (Implies the boy wasn’t looking.)

To think

I think that new doll will make her smile.
Better: That new doll will make her smile.

To watch

She watched him walk to his car and drive away.
Better: He walked to his car, then drove away.

To touch

The baby reached out and touched the burner.
Better: The baby burned his hand on the stove.

To sound (sounds like)

It sounded like he really loved the movie.
Better: He loved the movie.

To seem

He seemed to be having a fantastic time at the party, but then he saw Lily.
Better: He had a fantastic time at the party until he saw Lily.

To decide

She was trying to decide if she should take dance or guitar lessons.
Better: She had to choose between dance and guitar lessons.

To realize

Todd was beginning to realize that basketball isn’t his sport.
Better: Basketball isn’t Todd’s sport.

To wonder

Mike wondered if he’d ever see Sarah again once they left for college,
Better: After they leave for college, Mike might not see Sarah again.

To hear  

He heard the bell ring. It rattled his office window. 
Better: The church bell rang, rattling the loose windowpane in his office.  

To know

I know she loves peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Better: She loves peanut butter and banana sandwiches. 

Additional words that bloat or weaken your manuscript. Use these sparingly:





other -ly words
in order to (never needed)


Liza married the guy who literally swept her off her feet at a Spyro Gyra concert. Their love story can be found on Liza's “About” page. Besides being a die-hard Packer fan, Liza is also a readaholic, a romantic, and a lover of crazy socks and rooftops. Hello? is her debut YA novel. She also has had two adult non-fiction books published, as well as stories and articles in various publications. She's a graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Education and the mother of two sons.

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Hello? By Liza Wiemer
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
By Spencer Hill Contemporary

Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death.

Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.

Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.

Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.

Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? weaves together these five Wisconsin teens’ stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

To learn more about Hello? and to add it to your TBR: Goodreads or better yet, buy it!


"Brave, beautiful, and wholly original, this story about tantalizing connections and heartbreaking relationships will haunt you, fill you with hope, and leave you smiling."
—Martina Boone, award-winning uthor of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island series

"During the 1960's, Carole King released an album entitled Tapestry--a masterful weaving of story and song. A half-century later, author Liza Wiemer has mirrored that blend by wonderfully stringing together several forms of narration, one specific to each of her characters. Hello? is a truly remarkable and memorable story communicated in a superbly envisioned way."
–Paul Volponi, award-winning author of The Final Four, Game Seven, and Black and White. 

"A triumph of writing and humanity...the characters stayed with me long after I read the book." 
—Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of The Boy Most Likely To, What I Thought Was True & My Life Next Door


  1. Hi Martina,

    These are a great reminder. So often we writers fall into the trap of lifeless verbs and adverbs... Glad to see you are still featuring the first five pages workshop. It is such a good way to sharpen the most important pages of any manuscript. I wish I had something to submit. Have an enjoyable weekend.

  2. I had a couple of these tagged in my "To Do" list. I always go back over my entire novel with each no-no word in mind. Now I have a few more to think about. Great stuff!

  3. Excellent article, helps to refresh the memory. I advise you to try yourself as the author of the essay This is great it develops and brings good income, especially if you have experience in writing. This is my hobby that brings me pleasure more than my job.


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