Right now this is one of my pet peeves. I’m talking about overuse.
Ever have a shirt that got threadbare because you washed it so much? Finally it got holey and then you stopped wearing it. Well, this happens with overuse in writing too.
You overuse a word that you think is special. Say it’s DARK. The dark look in his eyes reeled the heroine in. Dark growls of pleasure rumbled in his chest. The dark moment crashed around her. Pretty soon there are so many DARKS that the word becomes unimportant and ANNOYING.
The reader loves the story, then it gets flawed from overuse, so she puts the book down.
Overuse extends to sentence structure as well. Daisy often sleeps with all 4 legs stuck in the air. She moves from place to place during the night. She starts on the orange couch and moves to the gray one. She finally ends up in bed sleeping on my feet. She always sleeps with her legs in the air, though.
See anything repetitive about this? Yep, an overused sentence structure. Subject/verb are used every time. Also too many sentences begin with SHE.
Overuse of ellipses, overuse of semi-colons, overuse of dialogue tags. They all suck.
How do we eliminate the clutter?
If you know you’re an overused word criminal, do a search for it. A lot of people overuse THAT, BACK, UP, JUST, WELL, OH, EYES. Search and replace or eliminate! Not sure if you overuse a word? Plug your manuscript into this site and get a word cloud of your most-used words. http://www.wordle.net/
Read some of your passages aloud. Are the sentences repetitive? Imagine you’re an audio book narrator. Does your voice become flat? Time to switch it up!
Are you overusing ellipses…?
Are you a semi-colon whore?
How many !!!! are in your manuscript, anyway?
Does your character repeat the sentence from above in dialogue? All overuse! Shame!
Actually, we all do it, even writers who have been at it for a long time. Don’t despair. This is where self-editing comes in.