WoW: That Problem


I’m making some changes to the blog.

Mondays will still feature comprehensive interviews with not-yet-published and debut romance novelists, but I’ll no longer be posting them on Thursdays. Instead, I’m adding two new features.

Welcome to Wordsmithing on Wednesdays—or WoW for short.

In my former life, back when wrinkles were on my clothes and not my face, I worked for a small textbook publishing company. After several years in the accounting department, I was blessed to join the editorial team as an assistant editor. My work was varied and fun. One of my tasks was copyediting. Since I’m a detail person who is a tad bit OC, I had a blast.

I’ve used the skills I learned on the job to polish my stories in an effort to make them shine. In addition, I’ve shared what I know with my awesome critique partners, with talented writing pals whose have bravely allowed me to read for them, and with contest entrants, whose work I’ve judged.

I’m all about helping others and passing on what I’ve been taught. So, I’m going to offer one tip each Wednesday. Since not everyone likes to edit as much as I do, I’ll endeavor to keep these posts short. My goal isn’t to put anyone to sleep. What I hope to do is give you little bits of info that can help you tweak your story.

So, without further ado, here is the first tip.

• • • • •

That Problem

I completed my first story, all 150,000+ words of it, in a little over two months. My monstrosity, er, manuscript was one of the draftiest drafts known to mankind. I committed every newbie mistake possible—and invented some new ones, I’m sure.

Now, you might think that as a former editor with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism, I would have learned to write tight.


I was (and still have a tendency to be) a wordy writer. Think Dickens. Since he was paid by the column inch, I think he had good reason to wax eloquent.

Today, however, novelists have to make every word count. One way to do that is seek and destroy weasel words. (I first heard this clever term from Angela Hunt in a workshop she taught at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2008.) These unnecessary words sneak into our sentences and slow them down.

As I read the story that I had poured my heart into, I noticed that I had a problem, one that I desperately needed to address.

Yes, I had a problem with the use, or overuse, of the word that. The previous paragraph serves as an illustration. I used the word three times, and it’s not necessary. The meaning is clear without a single that, as I demonstrate below.

As I read the story I had poured my heart into, I noticed I had a problem, one I desperately needed to address.

See how getting rid of that tightens things up?

Now, at times that is necessary. For example: I like Taco Bell and eat there several times a day. What do you think of that? (Yeah, I’m addicted. :-))

These days I make use of the find feature in Word to look for the word that and eliminate as many occurrences as I can.

And that takes care of that.

• • • • •

I have something new planned for Fridays as well, so stay tuned . . .


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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10 Responses to WoW: That Problem

  1. territiffany says:

    I can’t believe you wrote that many words so fast! WOW! I struggle to get my word count up to 70000 in 6 months!! I started my writing with short stories and have learned to write tight in the beginning and now have the opposite problem of giving enough for clarity. Thank you!

  2. Wendy says:

    I’m looking forward to these Wednesdays! I get ya with the wordy deal. Been there. Done that. Editing = weeding.

    How have you been, Keli?
    ~ Wendy

  3. Yes, when I read things I wrote years ago, I gringe.

    I am so bad (that) I created a glossary of words to search and destroy with word find.
    Great feature.

    I look forward to these WOW days. There is always something we need to learn.


  4. Anne Barton says:

    These mini-lessons will be great, Keli! Esp. since there’s no quiz. (Is there?) I’m taking notes anyway. 🙂

    Thanks, and I cant’ wait to see what’s coming on Friday.

  5. Lori Benton says:

    I have to search and destroy “that” too. I like your new feature, Keli. I love editing, which is a good thing since I can over write with the best of them, and am always up for learning new tricks to sharpen my editing knives. 🙂

  6. A great idea. I have a list of search and destroy words and “that” is one of them. I’ll look forward to further tricks!

  7. I laughed at the 150K manuscript. The first one I wrote with the intent to publish was a TOME of 300,000 words. I was so proud of it! Too bad I researched the market AFTER I wrote the manuscript instead of before. 😮

  8. WoW is going to be a great feature, Keli. Looking forward to lots of useful tips. 🙂

  9. Ruthy says:

    Oh mylanta, girl, what a hoot to relive those fun, crazy, hot, NO COFFEE days through your pics.

    And yes, you are short. Petite. Diminutive.

    AND ADORABLE. You and Anne both. And I’m proud to be teaching the Lighten Up course, it’s actually one of my faves, when I’m not haranguing poor innocent people about one thing or another.

    Great blog, chica. Can’t wait to dance at your First Sale party. Now that I’ve FORGIVEN YOU PUBLICLY for smacking me around in the GH.

    Hugs to you. And I’m loving my Keurig coffee maker at home, perfect coffee whenever I want it.

    What is the matter with that Disney place? Don’t they know we New Yorkers want coffee after 11:00 AM?

    Okay, now I’m just whining so I’ll stop. And work.


  10. Char Chaffin says:

    I immediately went through my manuscript from Page One, and ruthlessly began murdering all the superfluous little ‘thats’ I could find! Since I’m trying to get word count down, it worked stupendously well. I’ve got about fifty pages of ‘that-rooting’ to go. Thanks for the tip, Keli! I had no idea I was a ‘that-monger!!’


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