I’ve been writing for publication for over 40 years and I’m aware of the importance of fresh writing. That is, using a variety of words and phrases in your descriptions, explanations, etc. But this has never been as challenging an issue for me until I started writing fiction.
Do you spend a lot of time making sure that your writing is fresh—that you’re not repeating the same old phrases and terms? Or does originality come naturally to you? I’m guessing that many fiction writers approach their stories much as I do. I write the story using many instances of filler words and phrases just to get the story down—place holders. Then the editing begins. If you’re like me, you edit numerous times before your manuscript goes to the proofreader or hired editor. You edit for clarity in the story events as well as for flow and readability. You make sure the storyline is pure—cohesive—consistent. Then you begin nitpicking words and phrases. Have I overused a term? How can I say the same thing in a more unique or creative way?
I’m on book 16 of my Klepto Cat Mystery series and I’ve decided to create a Key Phrase List to help with this phase of my editing. While it was rather time-consuming to create, I believe it will be a time-saver as I attempt to develop my stories in the future. What did I include in my Key Phrase List? Terms, phrases, expressions, descriptive words that I might use in my story descriptions and dialog. And I imagine I’ll continue adding to it with each story that I write.
Now how will I use this list? I don’t know about you, but my memory is only so long. I might get a sense, when reading through my manuscript for the umpteenth time, that I’ve overused a word or a term, but I don’t know to what extent until I do a word search—which I often do. With this alphabetized list, I’ll note each instance of certain phrases and terms as I read through the manuscript and I’ll be able to see which ones are overused and get ideas for replacing them.
Sure, I’ve thought about the potential dangers—that my writing will appear mechanical or stilted. I had concerns that the creativity would diminish once I began manipulating the portrayals and action. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. After all, the story is written by the time I start working with these important details. All I’m manipulating is some of the language and the way it’s presented.
Why go to the trouble to create your own list of phrases when others have done it for you? Because you have a different way of approaching a story and the dialog and description within it. There are readers who like your style—your way of approaching a story, developing your characters, etc. You may not know it, but you have a certain way of telling a story that is unique to you and you use certain words and phrases. So it makes sense that you create your own list, at least to start with. Because these are the terms you use most comfortably.
For additional help in making your stories read fresher, here are a few sites you might visit.