Some writing advice…

I often get asked for advice about writing. When I have time, which isn’t often, I try to give it. At times like today, when I’m tracking down the last errors that I can find before submitting my manuscript to my editor, I remember things that can be of use to aspiring scribes.

Word repetition is something that creeps into one’s writing, like it or no. Some writers take the time when they’ve done to seek these out and remove them, but more do not. In my mind, many good reads can be ruined by such repetition. It’s fair enough when a word or phrase is repeated for emphasis, and it’s natural that the writer’s tired eye will miss others. It’s incredible how, after a dozen edits, two instances of say, ‘almost’, or ‘just’ can pop up beside each other.

Thankfully, vast improvements can be made by making the effort to excise as many as possible. If one has a list to use on the entire manuscript, things are made easier.

Here then, is my hit list. Be warned: trawling through a novel of 140,000 words for all of these will take you 8 hours or more. But it’s worth it!

only

just

then

chance

most/almost

soon

few

before

quite

though/ although

of course

at once

at last

however

yet

still

now (tip: to avoid having to look at all instances of ‘know’, search for ‘ now’)

already

And the killer – all words that end in ‘-ly’

Curse me as you do it! 🙂 Ben

 

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4 Comments

  1. PAUL ROSE
    Posted 8 October 2013 at 14:58 | Permalink

    Hello Ben.
    l am currently on page # 203 of THE FORGOTTEN LEGION, this is the very first book l have read of your’s and l am 100% HOOKED and then some..love your story and looking forward to the outcome of the 50 per side gladiator battle…but that will have to wait Ben as l have now to go and pick my two little grand daughters up from primary school-the taxi will be here at 3,l do not drive.

    l came across the above book in a charity shop, the cover grabbed me and l am very interested in this period..l love history be it the USA civil war or the last day’s in the German bunker in Berlin.

    Ben please tell me: is the cover a painting or a photo?

    Bestest to you Ben.
    Paul.

  2. Ben Kane
    Posted 10 October 2013 at 13:53 | Permalink

    @Paul: many thanks for your post, and welcome to my website!
    I’m delighted that you’re enjoying the book so much – the cover is a famous painting by a French artist of the 1700s – and it’s completely inaccurate in its portrayal of Romans!
    Best wishes to you – Ben.

  3. annis
    Posted 14 October 2013 at 23:53 | Permalink

    I was just reading the article you wrote for the Harrowgate Festival, Ben http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/news/gladiator/

    I was struck by your mention about a Roman father’s right to put disobedient family members to death. I was just reading a bit of early Roman history (long story – I was writing a Wikipedia article about armillae -I see you have one up for grabs in your Hannibal competition!) and came across the fascinating story of Titus Manlius, who became known as “Torquatus” after defeating a Gallic chieftain in a David & Goliath encounter. He took the torc from the dead chieftain’s neck and put it around his own, thereby setting in train the tradition of using Celtic-style torcs and bracelets as Roman military awards.

    Anyway, this same Torquatus later had his own son put to death for taking part in single combat when forbidden to do so. It was considered draconian even at the time and “Manlian” law became a byword for harshness. A very clear example, though, of the degree to which a Roman father held the rights of life and death over his family.
    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0155%3Abook%3D8%3Achapter%3D7

  4. Ben Kane
    Posted 16 October 2013 at 20:59 | Permalink

    @annis: Yes, I’d heard of Torquatus. A stern chap, me thinks!

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