So, I've finished going through my new novel and marking all the mistakes and things I want to change. What I discovered above all is that I like to use the word "actually". I use it mostly when people are talking in my book, which makes a little sense. I say "actually" a lot when I talk, and I'm trying to make my teenagers sound realistic. However, it's a little ridiculous after a while. I went through the book and deleted almost all of them.
When my editor helped me through Cry of the Sea, the words she kept circling for me were "just" and "really" and made me get rid of them. I found that I still had those words a lot in this new ms as well Once again I cut them.
I'm not sure why I like using qualifiers, but now that I'm aware of them, I see how often they are used in books with little editing (ie: self-published) verses ones that have been edited well. They stand out as if they are in bold print to me now.
I recommend that upon finished a draft, use your Find button and put in words like "just", "really", "actually", "seriously" and "very". See how many times they are showing up in your text. Delete them and see if your sentences still work. I can't say that I won't continue to put these useless words in my early drafts in the future. Habits are hard to break. I do hope to never submit a draft to an editor or agent with a manuscript filled with them, though.
What are your most commonly use pointless words?
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.