by Anita Stratos, Proof Positive Editor
I have a confession to make. I’m a binge word writer. I tend to binge on certain words or phrases when writing a first draft like they were my favorite flavor of ice cream. In fact, if the first draft of my writing was ice cream, I’d weigh 500 pounds by now.
That’s because I tend to use a particular word or phrase (or both) repeatedly, as if it’s the only way to describe a certain attitude, action, feeling, whatever. In one first draft, “raised eyebrows” were flying all over the fictitious town; in another, “sideways glances” stole the scenes. Yikes.
The binge words that attach themselves to my brain are different with every manuscript I write. For some reason, different stories bring out different binges. So it’s not like I can just watch out for a particular word or phrase with each manuscript. It’s always a surprise binge – the ice cream attacks me rather than me attacking it.
Your laptop doesn’t want to read the same words over and over again either.
Train-of-thought writing is like that for me. And while anything goes in a first draft, those repetitions have to be replaced by more creative terms during the revision process.
Repetitions aren’t always obvious during the writing process because I’m so focused on the overall work or so engrossed in writing a scene. And that’s what’s most important with a first draft – getting those thoughts on paper without stopping to edit (something particularly difficult for me; the editor in me always tries to strong-arm the writer in me). But when rereading during that first revision, those binges pop off the page like hot pink Mexican jumping beans.
And that’s when the real work begins. Because sometimes a binge word just seems so perfectly suited in each and every place it appears that it’s hard to imagine any other word doing as good of a job.
At that point I have to step back from the writing and sometimes even act the dialogue or situation out, which can really help open the door for a better descriptive. In fact, sometimes the entire scene can benefit from my little impromptu plays because another dimension to the story or scene may reveal itself, or a character may surprise me with a new attitude or perspective.
You’re probably thinking, “Why doesn’t she just use a thesaurus?” Well, I do use an expanded thesaurus, but it still doesn’t always give me what I need, especially when it comes to phrases. But as a last resort, I’ll check the words it offers just in case it jumpstarts my brain.
And if that doesn’t work, I send my revised, best-as-I-can-get-it draft complete with binge words to my editor and let her work it out. 😉 (Thanks, Christie!)