SOMEthing’s Gotta Go

Sometime during the course of my writing life I somehow decided some to be an appropriate word for many things. After all, it’s generic. I could say sometime, somewhere and simply some. It meant a lot of things. I didn’t need to go looking for the perfect word to describe something; some summed it up.

Some was the perfect word for everything I didn’t want to identify.

Then it happened. A fellow writer made a casual comment about words – those empty ones which fill our writing without us realising it – and in that concoction of terms, he included the word some.

I didn’t say anything at the time because for one, I didn’t believe him, and two, I wanted to see if he was right.

Here’s what I found when I removed some from a few of my Shadows in the Stone sentences and replaced it with a more meaningful word. The some word is crossed out and replaced with the underlined word(s). Where needed, the speaker’s name is added in brackets for clarity.

Joris heard Bronwyn grunt. When he looked up, his brother frowned at him.

(Bronwyn)“Isla’s only twelve – too young to think of that stuff.”

(Joris) “That stuff brings dreams to life. It makes you feel alive in all the right places – something a sensation you can’t get from an immaculate uniform.”

The above is a perfect example of a filler word. The new words a sensation provides a clearer picture to readers and gets Joris’ point across. Since this worked so well, I tried another.

The elf who tended the archives and library clutched a note pad and rocked back and forth in a methodical motion in his chair. Bronwyn noticed the misaligned buttons of his untucked shirt. Strange for someone a man who supposedly organised every record held at the castle for the past seventy-five years.

That change wasn’t too drastic, but it provided a sharper image. Here’s another where eliminating some clearly makes a big difference.

A strange urgency sparked in Anna’s belly as if something had startled her and she felt an urge to escape.

A strange urgency sparked in Anna’s belly and she felt the urge to escape as if a henchman grabbed her from behind.

What I’ve learnt in the some removal exercise is how to identify the who, what and how in a sentence instead of using some. By doing this, I don’t force readers to guess at what I mean. I tell them exactly what I want them to know.

Do you use some words sometimes or lots?

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27 thoughts on “SOMEthing’s Gotta Go

  1. Thanks for the like Diane! I am in the percolating phase of a book as well but one that will use the lives of my ancestors as a base. First I have to get the actual family history on paper. I am not a patient person and prefer the chase to the paper shuffling. This I always pay for in the end. Citing sources is a pain but oh so necessary!

    • Genealogy is a great source for stories. I have a few curing in my file, too. After the fantasy novels are done, I’m writing about a Scottish family on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I already have the first chapter written.

      Thanks for visiting, Yolanda.

  2. Thanks for thre reminder Diane. Your sentences do read much better when you removed or changed the word ‘some’. I have a few words (like ‘few’ and ‘like’) that I overuse as well.

  3. Great post, and excellent examples. I have noticed that I over use certain words. What comes to mind are the words “just” and “even.” Reading this I’m sure I’m guilty of SOME more as well. 🙂

    • We are all guilty at some time or other Laura. The list I have at the moment include: was, were, been, even, that, some, just and began. Just and even seem to slip in so nicely at every opportunity.

      Thanks.

  4. I think we all have our over used words. For me, it’s ‘like’. Once I reach the editing stage I search for ‘like’, and find different ways to construct those sentences in the majority of cases: such an improvement!
    One of the ladies in my crit group over uses ‘little’. She gets all her critiqued work back now with it crossed out.
    Thank goodness for computer searches that allow us to replace such irritating words in one sweep through.

    • I’m a like girl, too. Or at least I was. I was a teenager in the 80s, so I did my part of creating the Like Generation. Like, I was saying it every day! lol.

      But after discovering I often used it wrongly, I switched to ‘as if’ and ‘as though’ where appropriate. Now a flag goes up when I see like. My writing might be purged of it, but my dialogue in real life is filled with it. 🙂

      Thanks, Deborah.

    • The words we repeat make for interesting discussion. One person might say, don’t use quite, and then you pick up a book by a well-known author and find five quite words on the first page. That happened to me yesterday. I make a point of removing as many was words as I can, but yesterday I began reading “Nation” by Terry Pratchett and there were five — five! — was words on the first half page. Doesn’t he know that makes for passive sentences?

      Thanks, Libby.

  5. I tend to use “as if” a lot. For example “He screamed at the top of his voice, as if he thought it might turn back time.”

    I also make the huge mistake of switching tenses from past to present and back again. I don’t even realize it most of the time.

    • “As if” and “as though” are words I must watch for, too. Many times we don’t realise these things unless we search them out specifically. I know I have to.

      Thanks for visiting, Wendy.

        • I’ve never had a real problem with verb tenses though at times the odd one will show up. Usually it occurs when I’m thinking in a different tense. My thinking translates into my writing. I have never written in anything but past tense for so long that everything comes out as if it happened yesterday. Do you switch tenses from story to story? If so, perhaps that’s where the confusion lies. I sometimes get confused when I begin a new story in first person after writing for months in third person. I think it’s just training the brain to think in first instead of third, past instead of present.

          You are aware that you are doing this, so that’s the first step in correcting it. Eventually, it will come naturally.

          • I always mean to use present tense but end up switching back and forth. Although, now that I’m so aware of it, I am doing it less and finding it quite soon afterwards so I don’t have to look through the whole manuscript. 🙂

    • You’ll find lots of said words in my writing because I use them in place of almost all those bookisms (bleaked, barked, yelled, cried, etc). I have to have a good reason why someone whispered or ordered. I think in 130,000 words, I might have ten. But you’re right, Thea, I can easily use too many said words, too. Many times, we don’t even need to identify the speaker because we can already guess for certain who it is.

      Thanks, Thea.

  6. Some is one of those words that make us uniquely Maritimers or so I’ve been told by my Upper Canadian friends. We not only use it in the conventional sense—somewhere, someone, sometime—but also as a universal adjective. It was some nice day. That was some right good or less effusively, that was some good. It was some party. There are apparently no ends to is usefulness.
    I’m not sure this true, but give a listen to the conversations around you and see what you think. In all these cases, it is definitely a filler word but if it is unique to a region, it can serve another purpose in helping to identify the speaker.

    • Yes, Art, I agree. I’m a SOME person who used her fair share of the word. I guess that’s why it appears in my writing so much.

      And you are right. If I had a character who grew up in Nova Scotia the past 50 years I would have them use some to hint at their origin. Good point, Art.

      Thanks for visiting.

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