In one of my previous writing tips, I discussed how distracting overusing certain gestures can be for your readers. The same can be said for overusing uncommon adjectives.
I recently finished a book in which the main character was described as “astonished” so frequently that I finally stopped reading and (once again) did a search on my Kindle to see just how many times the word had been used. The tally? Fifteen. Now I realize that fifteen is hardly an exorbitant figure, but while “astonished” is a great adjective, it’s also quite memorable, so by its third or fourth appearance it was hard not to notice it. For the record, I encounter this problem with my own writing all the time. When I find myself using an unusual word more than a few times, I use the “find” function in Word to make sure it’s not getting out of hand.
Here’s the deal: You want your readers to be fixated on your story, not on how many times you’ve used a specific word. Unfortunately, in this particular instance I became fixated on the latter. That may just be my obsessive personality, of course, but right or wrong, the end result was that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I could have. Each time I encountered another “Ben was astonished,” the pleasurable experience of being immersed in a novel was interrupted.
The novel in question was published independently, so I’m not sure if the author had a professional copyeditor review the manuscript. But if you’re going the indie route, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have objective eyes review your work before you click “publish.” If you can’t afford to hire a professional, bribe your English-major pals to help. A red pen in the early stages is your friend!
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.