My tic, my editor and me


I have a couple of new story ideas brewing, so I’ve begun making notes.

Over the past few days I’ve been fleshing out plots, writing snippets of narrative, describing locations…and at all costs, avoiding the word “now”. I use it too often in my writing, you see. My editor cut about eleventy billion of them from Over The Edge. 

I remember getting the email from Shay after she’d read an early draft. The email said, “I’ve found your tic!” Of course, the first thing I thought of was an engorged, blood sucking insect.

That’s not what she meant. Fortunately.

Turns out a tic, in this case, is “a frequent quirk in the narrative”. For some writers, their tic might be a particular word or phrase. Maybe a too-oft repeated character trait. Whatever it is, it’s usually small, but its repetition can be enough to drive a reader crazy.

For me, it’s the word “now”.  And, apparently, “that” isn’t far behind it. My narrative was peppered with them both. I hadn’t noticed the overuse when I’d read through the draft, but as I sat back and looked at the document Shay had returned to me, with all the little yellow highlighted bits glowing in track-changes, I couldn’t believe how I’d not seen it before. “Now” and “that” were everywhere. I’d been throwing them around and dropping them like frisbees at the dog park.

This is why we have editors 🙂

All writers have tics, Shay said. She also said when I wrote my next story I’d be so hyper aware, I’d probably cut out plenty of “now”s and “that”s myself, before I even sent in the manuscript.

She was right. See the last sentence about being hyper aware? I just cut two “that”s out of it. Yep. Two. I had one before “when” and one after “aware”, but I caught them. Go me!

But I’m wondering if I’ll replace my old tic with a new one (I sooo wanted to write “now” after “wondering”, but I resisted). Maybe in this next manuscript it’ll be a phrase I overuse and don’t notice. Or I’ll unwittingly give all my characters red hair and a lisp. Even the cat.

Actually, a lisping cat could be interesting 🙂

So there you have it. My writer’s tic, all exposed. What do you think of that, now?

One thought on “My tic, my editor and me

  1. Christopher Bernard says:

    I’m a fan of “that” but it seems that (oops) a lot of people think that (there it is again) quite often the meaning of a sentence remains the same even if the word “that” is left out. It seems that (I used it again!) when “that” is removed the writing seems less formal so perhaps that’s (I think it was warranted here though) why your editor has picked up on it.

    I had a uni lecturer (I think I’m supposed to refer to her as a “facilitator” – that’s one thing I learnt in the course) a few years ago when I was doing my teaching quals who was a bit old fashioned and her thing was to add unnecessary commas to all my essays when she marked them! That used to bug me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *