Just Had That

January 11, 2013 at 9:08 am (Random Thoughts, Writing)

Hiya. Well, here I am in week #2 with blog post #2. I tell ya, I am a-rockin’ and a-rollin’!

So the topic of today’s blog post is not what I ate for breakfast, but rather about editing. You see, over the holidays I needed to re-read/polish one of my manuscripts, one that I thought was already pretty dang sparkly, even though it had been quite a while since I last touched it.

What is it they say? Writers never finish a book, they just decide to stop editing it?

Yeah, it was something like that. I found some small things (i.e. easy fixes)–and these were primarily choices, not typos or such, and I found a few places where more description was needed, and one or two spots where I needed to weave something back through the story. All of those items were easy-peasy compared to my final pass-through.

Find function, meeting the dreaded words of Just, Had, and That.

These are my Crutch Words (don’t get me started on looked and smiled–that’s another pain in the, er, I mean topic) and, as you’d guess by my pet name of Crutch Words, it means I lean on them.

A lot.

But, thank the writing gods for the Find function, I am able to highlight them and decide what to do with their overused asses. I read through the sentence and hear if the word is necessary, tricky, or needs to be axed. Necessary is easy–leave it alone and zip to the next one. Needs to be axed is pretty self-explanatory, too. The tricky ones are…well, tricky. Sometimes I take it out to see how it looks/reads, sometimes I’ll try and use another word(s) instead, but many times I’ll leave it alone. My theory is if it’s not falling naturally into being taken out or changed, I leave it alone. I’d rather be a little bit wordy than force a change that doesn’t fit.

So here are my stats on my Crutch words (for a 100K word book):

  • Just was the baby with 399 appearances, whittled down to 279
  • Had came in second with 632 appearances, slimmed down to 520
  • That, my biggest crutch of all, came in at a whopping 1063 appearances, shaved down to 913.

Think about it.  Those three words made up almost 2% of my book, the word that alone accounts for ~1% of my total words. I don’t know about you, but this was my reaction:

Side thought–one of these days I should put one of my books into a wordle and see what pops up. It’d either be very interesting or make me want to slash my wrists, possibly both.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Some other stuff, but those projects are posts for another time. All I know so far is that the first 11 days of this shiny new year have been interesting, fascinating, and chock full of optimism. That little gif above? Yeah, that’s how 2013 is going to be. Mind-blowingly fabulous.

Have a great weekend. I think I’m playing to the majority here when I say stay warm and dry.


  1. Karen said,

    Oh yes. Just is a crutch word for me to. I’ll bet had and that are in there too. But as I’m in draft phase, I’ll let it flow. I’m wordy in this mode so trimming those out later will feel good and bring the word count under control.

    (BTW, can’t see the gif. It’s got the brocken slash.)

    • Pamela Cayne said,

      Agree with you 100% Karen–anything goes in a draft phase. (Which, for us pantsters, can be very interesting…) I can’t help but wonder how difficult editing was before these nifty software programs. *shudders*

      P.S. Thanks for the note on the gif. I replaced it with something equally descriptive. 🙂

  2. Montana (curtbooks) said,

    Some of the toughest editing ever, I always start to question every decision. So proud of you!

    • Pamela Cayne said,

      It’s hard not to start questioning, isn’t it? And the pride goes both ways. 🙂

  3. Caryn Caldwell said,

    Yes! The word-whittling! I know that step well. I keep a running list with every book, starting with my usual crutch words (that, had, just) and then others I notice along the way. My list for my WIP is huge right now. I’m looking forward to going through the whole, edited manuscript in a few weeks and getting rid of those crutches.

    • Pamela Cayne said,

      Good luck! I should probably keep a list, but my 3 biggies are daunting enough, I think I’d cry if I found more. 🙂

  4. Marilyn Brant said,

    Pam, you are SO GOOD!! I’m sure I need to set aside a full editorial week just to rid my manuscript of “That” and some of my favorite crutches: “Seems,” “But,” “Then” and…wait for it…”Apparently.” 🙂 I’m proud of all your hard work and am sending you a BIG pom-pom-swish-swish!!

    • Pamela Cayne said,

      Aw, thanks, Marilyn! There are some parts of editing I don’t mind, but the crutch words are always last because they’re the worst! 🙂

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