Writers, These Words That Should Be Dead To You

Some words are overused.

And no, I’m not talking about bae or bro or even awesome.

I’m talking about the words that just aren’t doing anything for writers and that writers are being lazy about using. I think of these words as placeholders, they hold a place for us when we’re drafting so that when we revise we can go back and make things better.

Top Five Dead Words


Ex: She looked good, man.

Seriously? What does that mean? What kind of word is this? Good is a placeholder. To what degree is she looking good? How good is she looking?


Ex: He was a bad man.

Um, aren’t we all bad man, deep inside? What is it that makes him bad? What kind of bad is he? Creepy? Nasty? Wicked?


You, know man, stuff was happening.

What? No, I don’t know! What kind of stuff? Don’t be a lazy writer.


In dialogue this word works, but in your narrative? Not so much.

Ex: I got up and got the dog.

Do you mean you woke up? And then you picked up the dog? Or something? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WRITER?


I swear, my high school English teacher would scream if any of us students wrote ‘very’ in a story. He would circle it 8,000 times in red pen and would say, “If you get nothing else from this class, understand this. VERY should not exist. Excommunicate it from your writing.”

Why did he despise the word so much?

It’s an intensifier meant to make the word following behind it even more powerful, but he believed that if the word needed ‘very,’ then it wasn’t a powerful enough word on its own.

Or as Florence King said, “‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”



My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. Image

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Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


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You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 

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