Tips From a Young Author: Writer's Tics

Originally Posted On Knitted By God's Plan.


Writer's block may be the worst thing that can happen to an author, but a writer's tic is pretty bad, too. Writer's block may merely delay the book from getting to your reader's hands - a writer's tic may make them not want to read the book.

What is a writer's tic? A tic is defined as " A habitual spasmodic muscular movement or contraction, usually of the face or extremities," by the dictionary. Does this mean that a writer's tic is a spasmodic twitch that makes you type or write the wrong thing? Actually, no. A writer's tic is a word or phrase that an author depends on too much.

For instance, my writer's tic used to be "suddenly." I would be writing along, and suddenly, I would see that word there, and suddenly I would have to edit it out, and suddenly .... you get the idea. I have since figured out how to avoid that word, however, the word "however" has now been given me troubles, and, indeed, the word "indeed" has been, too.

I don't say that you can't use the words, but the human brain is a lover of variety, and a word repeated over and over and over will bore your readers, and quite possibly irritate them. And there's nothing worse than an irritated reader. If you want your reader to keep reading your book, you can't bore them - for they might not pick the book back up once they put it down - or irritate them - for they will purposely put the book down, and never pick it back up. The words themselves may be great words, and may add plenty of interest should they be used in the correct amount, but if you put it in too much, it looses its punch.

So, what do you do when you find you have a writer's tic? How do you identify a writer's tic?

If you suspect you have a problem word, and you are writing on the computer, there's a simple test. If you are writing on paper, it's a  tad bit trickier. If you're on the computer, first, determine how many words there are total. Then press CTRL+F. This will pull up a neat little find box. Type in the word you think may be giving you trouble. It may be a good idea if you tell it to "look for whole word only" if that is possible. Then, compare the number of times you use that word to how many words there are in the document total. If it is used more than once every hundred words - you probably have a writer's tic. It really depends on the word. The stronger the word, the less you need to use it.

Note: your Main character's name, pronouns, and, and some other various words are rarely writer's tics. If you use them a lot, that's not always that big of a deal.

If you are writing on paper, you will have to count all the words manually. No big deal.

So, what do you do when you realize there is a problem? Well, first of all, make sure you watch out for that word. If you catch yourself using it, ask yourself, "Is this the best word for this place?" and "Is this the best place for this word?" If you answer yes to both questions, you can use it. If you answer no to one and yes to the other, it's up to you, but you might prefer to not use it. If you answer no to both, don't use it. If you have used that word already in that paragraph, you may want to pick another word.

Second, you will want to go back through what you have already written, and ask yourself the same two questions for every time you used the word before. Sometimes you will want to change the word to another, sometimes you will want to delete it completely, and other times you can just leave it alone.

What are your writing tics?

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