Favorite Words (and taxes)

PhotobucketFirst off: Spread the word far and wide that tomorrow is agent Donald Maass’s first day with us as a contributor. Be sure to swing by and welcome him to the WU fold. And, yes, I know tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, but I swear to you it’s true! We’re thrilled to have him.

We’re going to try something new today. I’ll fess up and tell you that the reason you’re not going to get a meaty post from me is because I have to see the tax man tomorrow, so life is a little nutty as I gather slips and add numbers and fill out worksheets and wonder what we pay a tax man for anyway. Really, you get to a certain point in the process and it seems like you’ve done the hard work for him. (Sorry, tax man.)

If you’re in tax-crunch mode as well and would like to figure out what writers can claim as work expenses and more, check out our previous post on taxes HERE. I’ve updated the links. Feel free to share your favorite resources with us, too.

Changing gears.

One thing that became clear as I worked through my final edit was that I visited certain words too often–and taxes was not one of them. Twist, clutch, wobble, grasp and clench are just a few of my overused darlings. Funny how it happens, isn’t it? When I need a word–a synonym, say, for a word like grip, which seems a dry and boring descriptive to me–and head over to thesaurus.com, I’ll pick the same choices, time and again:

Main Entry: grip
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: hold tightly
Synonyms: clap a hand on, clasp, clench, clinch, clutch, get one’s hands on, grasp, latch on to, lay hands on, nab, seize, snag, snatch, take, take hold of

I just like those bold words better than the others. Maybe it’s a musical thing; Truman Capote once said, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

So what sings for you? Today, I’d like to hear about your overused and/or favorite words. And I’d like you to do something creative with them, if you’re up for it.

Step 1. List your favorites. If you don’t want to do anything more than that, then you can take your crayons and go home. We’ll still love you.
Step 2. Hey, glad to see you stuck around! Craft a good paragraph, haiku or even some flash fiction out of your favorite words.
Step 3. Get your friends to do the same so that they can’t laugh at you.
Step 4. Celebrate your unboxedness.

Ready? Go!

If you’d like to create a cool word cloud of your favorite words–or the words used most frequently in your writing–check out http://www.wordle.net/; that’s where I made mine. And don’t forget to swing by tomorrow to say Hey to Donald Maass.

Write on, all!


About Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed in 2006. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Library Journal and BookRiot. Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, sold to Random House in a two-book deal in 2008, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books, and was a Target Breakout Book. She's never been published with a lit magazine, but LOST's Carlton Cuse liked her Twitter haiku best and that made her pretty happy.


  1. Liz S says

    It’s not necessarily a word I use too often in my writing, but I love the word “moist.” Such a fun word to say. Plus, my MIL hates the word, so we try to work it into conversation with her as much as possible. I’ll have to start using it more often. I could probably find a use for it in love scenes.

    One word I over-use in my writing is smile. There just aren’t many good synonyms. Grin is about it. Yet there are so many different types of smiles. So we’re forced to use adverbs or adjectives. Perhaps I’ll start making up new words for smile. Wrile, for a wry smile. Smilecasm for sarcastic smile (although that one has hints of another word that would also work well in love scenes).

    Liz S

  2. says

    Therese, I’ve used wordle, too. Maybe I didn’t include enough text, but I didn’t get any words that really stood out. But I have to admit my characters look, see and glance too much. Because I’m aware of it, I try to elimate too much repetetition of that right off the bat. As for the creative bit, I’ve just written 10 pages of the WIP, and I’m afraid I’m written out for today (10.30pm at night here in the land of Oz).

  3. says

    I have to edit out “just” all the time.

    look, gaze…my characters do a lot of looking and gazing!

    You know what I want? I want a thesaurus that I can add words to. I can add to my dictionary, but not my thesaurus. What’s up with that? Wouldn’t that be a great software?

  4. says

    Ditto ArkansasCyndi – “just” is my curse.

    One of my favorite words is “bodice,” but I confess I’ve not had any occasion to use it my fiction. :P

  5. says

    I posted a bunch of word clouds for my nano novel – they’re so fun! I seem to overuse “quickened” when referring to breathing and heart rate, lol. That’s just one of many find and replaces that will be happening during this round of edits.

  6. says

    I can’t do Haikus – how about a Limerick?

    There once was girl schooled at Writtle
    Who was deeply enamoured of “little”
    That word she adored
    But her Editor abhorred
    And at each little “little” spat spittle

    (I really did go to college at Writtle…)

  7. says

    LOL at Anna’s limerick. She’s good!

    I’m going to try Wordie. Sounds like fun. I overuse the “seeing” words: gaze, look, glance. Sometimes I shake it up and my characters “peer.” I’m hoping these words are like “said,” and our eyes skim over them. We’re a visual society.

  8. says

    I overuse all the light words–dim, bright, illuminated, luminous. All of them. It’s always so much fun to have a CE point out, “did you realize you used ‘dim’ in 27 previous instances? Did you intend this repetition?”

  9. Kathy says

    I think everyone listed my own repetitive words: smile (ugh! there are no other words in English!); looking, etc.; just, which I remove when I read it over.

    Nice to know I’ve got lots of company. :-)