You start the editing process by binge reading a zillion articles on editing hints and tips. The phrase which keeps popping up is ‘delete the crutch words!’
According to the articles you waded through crutch words slow down your writing, are unnecessary and are a literary annoyance. Apparently some writers struggle to stay away from crutch words and have an emotional breakdown when they discover there are more crutch words contained within their draft novel than there are stars in the night sky!
After reading this your immediate reaction is to raise your perfectly sculptured eyebrows, shake your head and gush the phrase “I am NOT one of those writers…I do NOT have a problem with using crutch words!”
Even though you don’t have a crutch word problem you still make a list of the popular crutch words:
Really, quite, almost, truly, is, was, were, very, actually, have, had, so, anyway, could, would, literally, almost, all, just, thought, felt….and the list goes on and on.
With a smile on your face you turn to your good friend – the ‘find’ tool and start an exciting game called ‘Hunt The Crutch Words.’
The smile quickly evaporates from your face, your eyes darken and your head becomes full of bad thoughts about your friendly ‘find’ tool – they are no longer fitting your definition of a ‘friend.’ In your head friends don’t light up EVERY mistake the other makes. Friends let a lot of stuff go!
A little voice inside you whispers “I hate to be the bearer of bad literary news but you have a crutch word addiction!” Gasp!
Whilst trembling and gasping for air you frantically search Google for your nearest Crutch Word support group. To your dismay there are no support groups out there to help you through this cruel addiction. No small groups of people sat in a circle in a church hall, drinking cold tea and taking it in turns to stand up and say “hi, my name is [enter your name] and I have a terrible crutch word addiction!”
It’s not long before you hear the little voice again. “Rotten luck – you are on your own!”
Cue your silent prayer!
As you fight back hot stinging tears you try to come to terms with your addiction. The thought of eliminating a zillion crutch words from your draft makes you want to stick your head in the fridge, gorge on cheese and swig a glass of port or two…
I have pulled together some hints and tips on how to survive a crutch word addiction:
- View the discovery as positive. You are now aware of your addiction and you can take appropriate action to resolve it.
- Don’t punish your ‘Find’ Tool. Taking out your frustrations on this little guy is not going to help your situation. He will save you but you need to be nice.
- You are not alone. This is a common problem. You are not the only one dealing with this. Some writers will swear blind they don’t have a crutch word problem, some will say they are learning to manage their addiction and some will say they struggle to keep away from attractive and seductive crutch words. We are all fighting this addiction but on different levels.
- Talk to writer friends. Talking about it helps, especially with honest writer friends as they will understand your crutch word pain and suffering.
- This is part of the journey to becoming a smarter writer. The bad news with this addiction is that you can’t just do a delete or a find / replace blanket jobbie, you have to rework sentences which does sound tedious. However you need to stay positive. This process will turn you into a smarter writer and it will flex your creative mind.
- Think of the reader. You are going through this painful process for the sake of your reader. This will improve and enhance their reading experience of your work. They won’t feel so removed from the story or be confused about the meaning of your sentences. Sometimes we don’t think of the reader enough. So, cut out a face from a magazine, one that you don’t mind glancing at…a lot. Make sure its in a heart shape which reflects your love for your reader. Tell yourself the cut out face is your reader. Pin face near your computer, laptop or notebook and every time you find yourself screaming with crutch word frustration, look at your reader’s face! Before you know it you will be gazing at them and saying things like “I am doing this for you!” and “I would do anything for you….and that glowing review you are going to give me!” Trust me – this works!
- Total eradication might be impossible. Sometimes you have to use a crutch word. There might not be an alternative. You want to work towards using them sparingly as opposed to every other sentence.
- Make a thesaurus your new BFF! Sometimes we get so used to crutch words we forget the magical powers a thesaurus holds. Connect with it, take it to bed, browse and cuddle it until you fall asleep.
- Practice practice! I have been told it takes lots of practice.
If you are like me and currently battling a nasty crutch word addiction – I feel your pain.
Sadly I am not an expert on removing crutch words. To me crutch words are like my BFFs so getting rid of them is going to require a lot of suffering on my part. I can help you with the emotional side (as above) but technical stuff goes right over my head. So, try these useful articles on the subject:
- ‘Crutch words cripple your writing’ from BookBaby Blog
- ‘How crutch words are holding back your writing’ from The WritePractice.com
It’s not nice having to deal with something like a crutch word addiction just before Christmas and it can put you off a mince-pie!
Have a great day!