Mmmm, coffee! That delicious drink that fuels our mad dash at the keyboard in an attempt to write the novel brewing inside us. What would we do without it? And filters make that possible. Whisking out all those gritty, bitter grounds that would ruin that delectable smooth concoction. But surprisingly enough, we need those grounds in our writing.
Wait, did I just compare your writing to coffee grounds? This comparison is getting a little off track, but the point is, you don’t want bland smoothness in your writing. You want the grit and the chunks and the texture that makes it come alive. Maybe not so much in coffee, but in writing? Yes!
So what are these filters that weaken our writing, making it easy to slip through the minds of our readers, leaving no impression and just gliding off into nothingness? Well, I had no idea they existed until I decided to do a little research into editing techniques. And this is what I found:
Basically, filter words are anything that weakens the impact of your writing and/or pulls the reader farther away from the action. And I don’t want to sound like I’m some expert here. Far from it. I’m going to share some fantastic websites that helped me better understand this topic, and maybe try to paraphrase for you.
Here is a list of blog articles that helped me to see where I was going wrong with my writing:
10 Words to Cut from Your Writing on Entrepreneur.com Gives a list of 10 unnecessary words to cut to tighten your prose.
Three Words You Should Eliminate From Your Writing on WriteToDone.com This adds one more word to the list in the previous blog post, but it’s still a good read to reinforce why we can skip these words.
8 Words to Seek and Destroy in Your Writing on LitReactor.com See the pattern here? Cut. Cut. Cut.
Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction? on WriteItSideways.com This great post explains filter words and links to several more articles that can help, as well as listing a few more words to add to that growing list of filters.
Ten Words to Avoid When Writing on FreelanceWriting.com And a few more to add to the growing pile. Each article reiterates some of the tried and true favorites and adds one or two more.
Filter Words on PublishingCrawl.com Gives some great examples to help you see where you can eliminate words that distance your reader from what is happening.
Ten Quick Fixes to Improve Your Fiction Now on AbsoluteWrite.com/novels
And when you’re done with those, just Google some more. There are plenty of blog posts and articles to help on this subject. Here is a compiled list of all the words highlighted in the aforementioned articles, along with a few I’ve found to be troublesome myself, and in no particular order:
Just to give you an idea, I cut more than 200 words by eliminating the word “that”. Obviously not all of them. There are instances where it was needed, but there were 200 where it was not. I changed a lot of “I’ve got” and “you’ve got” to “I have” and “you have”. I used the word “own” so many times, I couldn’t stop seeing it once I realized it was there, as in “my own” and “his own”. Where ever I could, I changed -ing verbs, especially ones using the word “is”. For example: “My ankle is throbbing” was changed to “My ankle throbs”. See how that’s more immediate. Instead of the character telling us what she’s feeling, we feel it too.
And there may be be words that you use too much that are fine used sparingly, but in such quantities seems like a glaring error. Although, to be honest, some of these words on the list are personal preference. I can see limiting the word “of”, but when I went through my manuscript using the Find & Replace task, I didn’t see how changing the “of” would make it better. So to each his own. There, I used it again!
It never hurts to brush up on these, and I’ll be referring to my own post when I get to the editing stage again. The trick is to keep the reader fully invested in the characters and the action, so why put distance or filters between the reader and your story? It’s easy to write “weak” in a first draft, but once that’s done, edit “strong”.
Watch out for Newbie Post #11: Strong Verbs – This one’s self-explanatory, and kind of gets to the gritty chunks and textures I was talking about in the beginning of this rambling post.
If you liked this one, check out Newbie Post #9: You’re Novel Is Not Ready to be Seen by Anyone