Get Out Of Your Own Way

Get Out of your own way

When I first started writing novels, I had a lot to say about writing. I was learning so much and anxious to share, so I’d write blog post after blog post of, “Ooooh, look at this new shiny trick!”


I haven’t posted much lately. It’s not because I feel like I’ve learned everything. It’s the opposite, actually. I’m starting to think I’ve learned too much.

That sounds bad. Let me explain.

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MBM: Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado

Welcome to the ninth day of



Today, Anthony Mercado is tackling the subject of adverbs. 

Anthony is one of those talented people I mentioned above. He comes from a great background in journalism where he learned to write with power and brevity.

His wife, Mary, gave that great post last week about The Art of Accepting Criticism. They’re a fun couple to hang around. They know the coolest stuff and have entertaining stories.

Anthony is quick to make me laugh with his dry sense of humor. He and Mary are the kind of people I try to glean as much as I can while I’m with them.

Today Anthony is going to help us strengthen our writing with a great post entitled,


Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado

“Just the facts verbs ma’am. Just the facts verbs.” ~ Joe Friday  A conscientious writer

The genesis of my shameful use of adjectives and adverbs is traced back to elementary school. Every teacher at Buena Vista Elementary gave this assignment in September: write a 200 word essay about what you did last summer.

You’ve heard the term, “stuffing the ballot box.” I, like many other school kids, “stuffed” the paper by beefing up the nothing essay with more of nothing—adjectives and, worse yet, adverbs. I knew it and the teacher knew it. The first sentence of my first draft probably started like this,

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Writing Tip #5: Trim the Fat

Well, it’s time to trim the manuscript. 


I’m so long-winded, it’s horrible. Every time I do another draft, my manuscript gains a few thousand words. Yikes!

But…some words are easy to cut. And painless. They’re the same words that bog down sentences and paragraphs. The best part is once they’re gone, I don’t miss them a bit. 

One of the last things I do with a manuscript is use the “Control F” function. Find and Replace, the writer’s best friend. Think of it like Search and DestroyOnce I feel my manuscript is “done”, I hunt for useless words that slipped in. Then I zap them and sit back, amazed at how quickly my word count drops. 

It’s awesome.

If you’ve been writing for awhile, you probably have your own list of excess words. I’ve gathered some over the years, but since I needed to go through this process this week, I put all my lists together in one place. I figured I’d post it here for you to peruse (and for me to use in future manuscripts).



  1. There are times when you need a “THAT” or a “JUST” to make a sentence work.
  2. Sometimes — and all you diehards don’t shoot me for saying this! — you need an adverb. Sorry, sorry, sorry! That’s just my opinion. Seriously, don’t shoot me. (See, I just used an adverb–and the word “JUST”. Ha!!!!)
  3. Depending on how your characters speak, you may need to leave some unnecessary words in to make the character sound authentic. Example: Teenagers throw tons of extra words into their speech (like, so, that). Same with southerners. Know your characters and be careful not to ruin their “Voice” when you strip your manuscript. In fact, if you cut those words from all places except where your character says them, it will strengthen their voice.


Because of those three reasons, I maybe cut half of the “useless” words, but it still adds up. THE POINT OF THE LIST BELOW IS TO GIVE YOU IDEAS OF WHERE YOU MIGHT  HAVE EXCESS. It’s tedious skimming your manuscript for every word, reading every sentence to see if the word is needed, but it’s worth the effort.  I just cut 2,500 words this week. 


Okay. Ready?

Here’s my list:

  1. about   
  2. actually
  3. almost 
  4. although             
  5. appears               
  6. approximately  
  7. back      
  8. basically              
  9. close to               
  10. enough               
  11. even     
  12. eventually          
  13. exactly 
  14. feel, felt, feeling             
  15. finally   
  16. for a moment   
  17. get        
  18. go/going          
  19. had       
  20. hear/heard        
  21. in spite of           
  22. just       
  23. kind of 
  24. know    
  25. like        
  26. look/looked 
  27. nearly  
  28. notice  
  29. now      
  30. one       
  31. perhaps              
  32. practically           
  33. quite    
  34. rather  
  35. realize  
  36. really    
  37. saw, see, seen 
  38. seems/seemed  
  39. simply  
  40. smile/smiled
  41. so          
  42. some    
  43. somehow           
  44. somewhat         
  45. sort of  
  46. still        
  47. suddenly            
  48. then     
  49. thought               
  50. time      
  51. truly      
  52. try/tried to         
  53. turned 
  54. utterly 
  55. very      
  56. was/were          
  57. wonder               
  58. yet        
  59. (If you have words to add, comment below, and I’ll plug them in. )


There’s a great way to find your specific overused words. Paste your entire manuscript into Wordle.netI explain how this works in the post here.

After three days of this tedious SEARCH and DESTROY method, I cut 2,400 words from my manuscript. Now it feels tight and concise. It reads faster and stronger, too, so it’s worth it! 

Good luck with your manuscripts!

What words do you overuse? Any I forgot? Comment here.

Side note: Readers have no idea what authors go through for them. :)

58 Words to Trim

Other writing tips:


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