Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Over-used Phrase For Authors to Avoid

While editing and reading new releases lately, I've noticed an overused phrase that is appearing everywhere and seems to be a popular writing tool. In fact, one new release by a well-known author and published by a major company had this phrase in two times....on the same page.

"It was as if"....."It was like..." or any variation of this phrase.

Not that I don't think there are times it is useful. In fact, it connects the reader to the idea being presented on multiple levels to provide an analogy. But over using that phrase-as in several times throughout the manuscript-is overkill. Twice on one page would bear a note written in red from me stating "Same wording used twice. Reword one."

The idea to writing, whether fiction or non-fiction material, is to show, not tell. The manuscripts I have enjoyed editing the most are those that have mastered this skill. The wording flows and I can see the movie play in my mind as opposed to trying to form a picture. When you over use the concept of making one point several times, from several angles, you are trying too hard to say it and not show it.

I remember a writing teacher from long ago telling his class to "form a picture" when writing. I say nuts to that. I want dinner and a movie. I want to see the action effortlessly playing in my mind. I want more than a picture. I want a moving picture.

If you are one to use any variation of "It was as if...", try not to use it often. It might be a sign that you are trying too hard to project an image when you really want to show a matinee.