Stomping out your writer’s tics

“Every writer has a writer’s tic,” a famous author once told me.

As a writer, you challenge is to identify your own writer’s tic, and stomp it out of your manuscript.

In my own case, when I’m writing my first draft, I give free rein to my writing tics. But in the second draft, I hunt them down and stomp them out.

Here are a few of my own writer’s tics that I have to wipe out in the second draft:

  • Worthless words.
    My first draft is always studded with superfluous words such as very, apparently, obviously, suddenly, and surely. In the second draft, I do a global search for these serial offenders. Out they go!
  • Ding-dong, the dash is dead. Also the ellipses.
    I have a bad habit of “dramatizing” the rhythm of sentences with dashes and ellipses, which have to be removed.In fact, you could me the Queen of Dashes—or the Empress of Ellipses…
  • Lazy-man’s time reference: “By the time.”By the time I get to Phoenix, I realize I need to delete all my instances of “By the time.”

How about you? What are your “writer’s tics” that you have to stomp out before you submit your manuscript to the editor?

16 thoughts on “Stomping out your writer’s tics

  1. Mine is the em dash——a technique I overuse. But I do try and clean them up on rewrites——after all, too many can become annoying. Now I need to dash out of here——my writing requires an em dash cleanup. 🙂

  2. There are certain words I use way too much. Still, very, really. Just is my most overused word. I just go back and take them all out.

  3. Thank goodness for the Find command in Word–helps us nail every tic and banish it! Chris Roerden’s book, Don’t Murder Your Mystery,is great for identifying writing goofs. I use it as a checklist to spot things that need to be cleaned up.

  4. The phrase ‘for a moment’ ‘after a moment’ or anything else which has to do with moments pretty much must die.


  5. I have a problem with “just.” I also have to be careful not to start a sentence in one direction, then twist it back with a “but.” It can be effective, and I can usually get a laugh in speech with it when I want to, but if I’m not careful every page has one.

    Damn it, I just did it again.

    Arrggh! There was a “just.”

    I’m starting to feel like the Knights Who Say Ni.

  6. All of the above. No, that’s not my tic phrase; all of the above mentioned words and phrases are!

    Also: “So much for (something) ” as a cute way to end a scene. UGH.

  7. GOT

    I guess all my travel to southern Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana has caught up with me. They use the plural version more often, but thank God for find & replace.

  8. Since my books started off being primarily written for podcast performance I put a few annotations in them to help with pauses and accents.

    The hardest one to clean out while getting them ready for a text format is the old dot pause

    Also, I think, I put, too many, commas….

  9. Mea Culpa – it’s the em dash alright! I also find I get on a roll and start repeating certain colors, moods or weather. My husband is the best for telling me – is everything grey in this chapter or why is Ursula always cold? I heed his advice in the rewrtes!

  10. I am all about the dashes and ellipses. I have trouble parting with them too. It takes three or four edits, and even then, I still think, well, I guess one wouldn’t hurt…

  11. I have a nasty tendency to start nearly every new character’s name with the same letter, so by word 100,000 I have “Jake, John, Jasper…” You get the idea.

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