So, I had a thought. It evolves around the beauty of the written language, and how we have managed to taint it with over-used words and word-types.
By word-types, I mean those words ending in ‘ly.’ One of the main overused ‘ly’ words in writing is ‘simply.’ “He simply looked at her.” “He would simply wait.” “They simply had not had enough to eat.” The word ‘simply’ is so commonly used that it feels right and easy when we place it – natural, perhaps. But, when we break it down, most times the word doesn’t fit as well as we thought it would. Take the first above example. By using ‘simply’ to describe how he looked at her, it leaves the reader with a lackluster effect. It shows no emotion, no grip, and no true description to what is happening. How did he look at her? And, if the writer then goes into detail now about how he simply looked at her, that look is not so simple anymore and the word should be replaced.
Some writers consider the use of ‘ly’ words to be a lazy writer’s way out. By way out, they mean the writer is taking an easy route of explanation versus building their sentences with more depth and bite. The ‘ly’ words are fine on occasion, but they can be overused which can take away from the beauty of sentence development.
For example, instead of writing, “At precisely the right moment, the alarm would sound,” consider restructuring the sentence to read something like, “When the right moment arrived, the alarm would sound.” Now, grammatically speaking, both of these sentences are correct. However, the ‘ly’ word in the first example was removed for the second example, showing its addition to the phrase is not needed. If the author decided then that they really wanted the word ‘precise’ to have some place in the paragraph, they could continue the sentence as so: “When the right moment arrived, the alarm would sound. Pulling this off would require precise timing.” Or: “Pulling this off would require precision.”
What makes writers stand out from one another is not only story content but writing style. An author’s writing style is his or hers alone, and it should be unique to them while still following the rules of grammar and sentence structure as much as possible without the risk of losing the voice of the author or protagonist.
On the first draft of a story or a book, just get it all out of your head and into words. On your first read-through, look at your sentences and consider what you could do to make each better. Consider each paragraph. Is each paragraph developed enough to relay your story, or does a paragraph contain information that would be better suited in its own stand-alone paragraph?
Build on your words with greater words. Utilize this massive, beautiful language that we have been given, and transform your book from the good story that it is to the brilliant saga that it could be. As the writer, you are the master of your book, and you are in charge of every word that goes into it. Give it your best because it deserves nothing less from you. Your readers will be able to tell that you took the time to make your book as well-written as it could be. It will show.
I heard some sage advice once, although I do not recall who gave it to me. Still, I’ll share it here with you: If you want to be one of the greats, you have to write better than the greats.
Until I have another thought!
~ Jae El