The junk word that always sneaks its way into my writing: way

our-wayI have a long list of words that I try to get out of my writing when I am revising. They are the junk words that clog up any first draft. But one bothers me more than all the rest put together. It seems like an innocuous word at first, almost like it belongs there.

The word is way.

What’s so bad about way? Well, it’s all in the way that you use it. (Ugh! Doesn’t it look disgusting sitting there in that last sentence, wasting valuable space?)

It almost always takes up valuable space where a more interesting, powerful word should be. Take this sentence, for example:

Joseph made his way to the store.

There is nothing here for your readers to imagine. You are just giving them information while missing an opportunity to paint a mental picture. HOW did Joseph make his way to the store? Did he run? Did he crawl? Did he saunter? Did he skip, dance, or lobster crawl to the store?  Way offers nothing in the way (yuck) of details. Here’s another one:

Joanie loved the way that Chachi looked at her.

Other than the sentence being an odd callback to a Happy Days spin-off that most people have (rightfully) forgotten about, the sentence works alright as it is. But it could work so much better. That way is in there mucking things up again. We’re completely missing the how of the look. How does he look at her? Is it a smoldering look? Playful? Serious? Sarcastic?

Way always stands in the way (dammit) of a better word or description.

When I’m rough drafting, I don’t worry about way. I let it clutter up my writing any way (gross) that it wants. But, when I’m revising, I hunt them all down and kill them. My writing is better after I do it, and I have a feeling that you’ll find yours working better, too.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 12: Techniques for Writing Dialogue

dialogueHow do you write dialogue that sounds authentic, shimmers with subtext, and advances the plot? That’s what we tackle in this week’s episode!

This is the twelfth episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 11: To Adverb or Not to Adverb

adverbsHow (and why!) to dramatically improve your writing by getting rid of those pesky little adverbs. This episode explores what they are, why they matter, and how your writing will become stronger and clearer once you weed them out of your sentences.

This is the eleventh episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 10: The Snowflake Method with Randy Ingermanson

snowflake methodNeed some help getting that novel or screenplay to come together? Randy Ingermanson and his Snowflake Method might be just what you need!

This is the tenth episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 9: Defamiliarization

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Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.” Defamiliarization in action!

How do your make your story stand out as something fresh and exciting in a world of millions of stories? It’s all about defamiliarization!

This is the ninth episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 8: Glimmers with Pam Houston

pam houstonListen in as award-winning author Pam Houston discusses her process of discovering the material of great writing: glimmers.

This is the eighth episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.

Inside Creative Writing – Episode 7: Loose Ends and Unreliable Narrators

holden
J.D. Salinger’s famous unreliable narrator, Holden Caulfield, from Catcher in the Rye

Why might you want to have an unreliable narrator in your story? That’s what we explore in this episode of the podcast. We also answer some listener questions and tie up some loose ends from previous episodes.

This is the seventh episode of the podcast I hosted years ago. I’m no longer producing it, but wanted to make it available to you here.