WRITING: Go away, favorite words

tearsfeltIt’s down to the wire for my first book. It’s been read, re-read, critiqued and a couple of editors have given it a quick look.

Everyone has their favorite word, one editor told me. Mine is “felt.” So I’ve gone through my 70,000 words, changing or at least thinking about changing every single one of them.

Most of them were easy to change.

Maureen felt the blush rising to her face
became
The blush rose to Maureen’s face.

Easy huh? And better, I think. The reader is reading what’s happening rather than experiencing it through a character’s skin.

Sometimes I had to go further. Take out the feeling altogether and rewrite the sentence so

SOMETHING HAPPENED.

In other words, she stopped feeling and did something.

Maureen felt an ache in her heart for her strong, brave brother
became
Her heart ached for her strong, brave brother.

I spent hours fixing all these “felt”s. And as I read, I discovered that my favorite emotion involved “tears.” OK, there’s a lot of sadness in a Civil War novel. People get hurt, lost, die. And plenty of other sad things.

But I had the word “tears” in every chapter. Almost, anyway. And crying isn’t the only valid reaction to a sad, grief-stricken moment.

So I stopped all the crying. Lips now quiver. People gasp or clutch their chest. In a couple of cases, I decided these girls wouldn’t be crying over happy things. They’d laugh! They’d shout! They’d dance! And now they do.

I’m so grateful I found these words and struck them many times from my manuscript. I think it’s better for it.

What’s your favorite word?

 

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