A ‘writing tic’ is something that you regularly include in your writing, and often use to excess. It can be a partial phrase, or even a particular word used repetitively. We all do this, and often careful editing can catch these ‘writing tics’, but sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees, and these tics can creep into our published works. Here are three tips to help you get rid of a writing tic:
Coming to terms with the fact that you have a writing tic is the first step. Identifying the tic is the next step. Editing and beta readers can help in this regard, but perspective will also help. Spending some time away from your writing, before coming back to editing can offer a fresh view on the work. I’ve also heard that reading your work backwards or out of order, can help shed new light on the editing process.
One of the best ways to address a writing tic is to come up with several options to describe what you’re saying without reverting back to your writing tic. One of my favourite examples is in the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series (one of my all time favourites). One of Jordan’s tics is that the women in his novels are frequently ‘braid pulling’ or ‘skirt smoothing’. His writing tic is so ubiquitous that it’s well known and frequently discussed in the WOT reader community.
To stay with the Robert Jordan example, instead of ‘skirt smoothing’ he could have written, ‘adjusting their skirts’ ‘ran their hands over their skirts’, or better yet, he could avoid anything to do with skirt smoothing, and brainstorm another way in which people physically demonstrate nervousness.
#3. Happy medium:
Obviously it’s not necessary to entirely erase a writing tic. Sometimes they’re endearing, like Robert Jordan’s ‘braid pulling’. But when the tic is used too often it becomes a crutch. As well, it can sometimes become the focal point of a paragraph; pulling a reader’s eye, and taking them out of the story and the world you’ve so meticulously crafted. Finding a way to include endearing tics (like Robert Jordan’s braid pulling), without allowing it to take over the entire work requires an awareness and a deft hand from both writer and editor!
Do you have a writing tic? If so, how do you deal with it? Tell me in the comments below!
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