Tag Archives: Authors


Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words

I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.

What the flick?

“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”

Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.

Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.

Just don’t

Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?

What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.

Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.

Actually, crutch words make everyone the same

Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.

I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.

Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?

More important: How many of them do you need?

Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.

Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this

And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?

Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.

It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript

When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.

Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.

So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!

And then—get writing.


The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern




Excerpt from my book, Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the “Bloody Fifth” in Philadelphia:


It only took Dave five minutes to walk from the station house at Third and Delancey,  but the August heat took its toll. His collar and hatband were soaked through with sweat when he arrived at Deutsch’s shop.

“Mayor Smith told me to come and talk to you about how I can help with the election,” Dave said. He looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody saw him go in.

“Yes. Yes. Good. Come in, Lieutenant,” Ike Deutsch replied. The butcher wiped his palms and the backs of his hands on his blood-splattered apron, and they shook hands. He locked the door to the shop and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed” after Dave entered. “Let’s go to the back where we can talk in private.” As he pulled his apron off over his head, he added, “You never know who’s peeking through the glass.”

Dave removed his cap and followed the butcher. They walked past the dead chickens hung by their ankles, beneath the fragrant sausages hanging overhead, past the glass case of roasts and chops on the left with the big roll of brown paper and large spool of twine on top. The sawdust on the floor puffed up with each step as they snaked between the carcasses hanging on heavy iron hooks, past the bloodied butcher blocks strewn with dangerous-looking implements, until at last they entered a small, dank room off to the right.

“I call this my office. Not much, I know—but it gives me some privacy.” Deutsch closed the door, threw the apron into the bin to his left, and pointing to a stool in the corner, said, “Sit, please, sit.”

Dave settled onto the stool.

Ike Deutsch plopped himself down on the chair behind a rickety wooden table serving as his desk. He whisked aside a pile of stained bills and receipts and simultaneously pulled the dirty ashtray from the side of the table to himself. He lit a fat cigar and tossed the charred matchstick into the ashtray “So, Lieutenant, I think we’re about to become partners in an exciting adventure.”

Dave tried not to choke. He wasn’t sure if it was being closeted with the cigar smoke or the thought of politics again gripping his life.


Hope you enjoyed this tidbit. If you’re tempted to read more, please order Bosses and Blackjacks, available from Amazon in ebook or paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Bosses-Blackjacks-Bloody-Fifth-Philadelphia/dp/1523349093



Well, folks . . . I did it!


Mae’s Revenge is available just in time for your first weekend of Summer, 2017!


The lovely ladies (pictured above) simply could not wait another moment to find out exactly what goes on inside this historical novella.


And now — you don’t have to wait, either!

Available on Amazon.com: 



Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this adventure with me, and I hope you enjoy Mae’s Revenge! (Available in E-book and paperback versions.) Please don’t hesitate to use the “comment” option, above.


I have a confession to make . . .

I’m freaking out a bit.

You see, I’ve agreed to be one of several authors at a  local venue next week for a book signing! What the hell was I thinking?

I have personally witnessed book signings (by others) about four times in my entire life. Two of those times were for my indie author husband, where my participation involved ironing the table covers and making sure there were cookies for his “fans.” Not exactly activities I could include on my resume as “book signing experience.”

What I do know:

Bring 10,000 copies of my book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia”                                                                  Wait a minute . . . did I say 10,000? . . .  I meant 10.

Bring a pen (that works). On second thought —better bring two.

Bring a table cover (freshly ironed, of course)

Bring the clever(?) bookmarks I spent hours designing and re-designing to give away to anyone who gets within three miles of my table. (I do know how to make paper airplanes!)

Bring business cards — to make it easy for reps from those big publishing houses and movie moguls to contact me day or night! (Think positive…think positive…think positive)

Bring a stiff upper lip —so I don’t dissolve into a puddle of disappointment if no one shows up — or worse, if people show up, but no one buys my book…or, God forbid, doesn’t even talk to me.

Oh damn! I almost forgot —bring cookies!


Seriously folks . . . if any of you, Dear Readers, have  helpful  advice to get me through this horror show called “A Book Signing,” I will be checking back every day for the next week to read your comments.

It’s so weird — I keep hearing Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” in my head. Sorry to leave you with that ear-worm!



Sometimes when writing, you are required to go back to some point in time in your own past to recall a scent, a touch, an emotion, or perhaps a scene, in order to convey an experience your readers can relate to.

When you do that, it can be difficult to relive a moment that evokes the gut-wrenching pain of an emotionally draining event. There are also the memories of embarrassment or shame that somehow have to become a series of words forming sentences on a page, which draw your readers into another world.

In reality, it’s a black and white sketchbook of word-pictures drawn from the author’s most intimate life experiences.

This grueling process could explain the far-away stare emanating from that dreamer, whose morning beverage is getting cold next to their laptop perched upon the corner table, in the coffee shop where you stop every day on your way to work.

Don’t try to disturb them. You can’t. They won’t hear you. They are not in this world. They are creating new ones for you to enjoy.

(Featured image:  Memory Extraction Spell – Harry Potter)



The following “WRITER’S TEST” is brought to you by: Katie Yeakle at AWAI (American Writers & Artists, Inc.)

Let’s find out if you’re “cut out” to be a successful writer.
Right now, ask yourself these questions:


Let’s face it … writers have to know how to get their thoughts and ideas across in writing. Do you need to be able to do it like a Hemingway or Danielle Steel? No! You’ll develop your own style as you write more and hone your craft. But if anyone at any time has read any form of writing from you and said, “Hey, did anyone ever tell you you’re a pretty good writer?” then chances are very good you’ve got that spark of talent you need.


At first, this won’t be an issue. You can take as long as you want to write that first book. But once there’s interest in your work … and once you have success and publishers want more books from you … you’re going to have deadlines for edits, new drafts, new outlines, and so on.


This is the part about “being a writer” that most writers love: The idea of writing at any time, for as long as you want, from anywhere in the world, with nobody looking over your shoulder. But some need a more “regimented” life, with rules and structure and a more “defined” workday to be productive. If you need more “regiment,” getting motivated each day could be a struggle. But if you love working on your own, the writer’s life is perfect for you.


Any successful writer will tell you — a good editor is usually the “secret weapon” behind their success. And as a new writer, an editor will play an even more crucial role. The best writers recognize that editors — or anyone who reads your work, really — can offer a much-needed fresh perspective … which is why the most successful writers are always open to new suggestions and ideas.


This one’s pretty obvious: Writers love to be captivated by a good story — whether on the page, on the screen, or on the stage. If you’ve ever finished a great book or play, or watched a terrific movie, and found yourself inspired to write, chances are great you’re cut out to be a writer.


Daydreamers have a bad rep! In school, it got you detention. In your day job, it can get you hauled into the boss’s office. But for a writer — daydreaming is not only okay … it’s mandatory! So if you’ve ever found yourself totally immersed in creative thought when you should be doing something else — chances are, you’re cut out to be a writer.
There you have it …
Six of the top traits many of the world’s most successful writers share.
—Katie Yeakle


If you took the time to complete this test—in my book, you passed! Congratulations! Star stickers will be handed out at the end of class today. Now, please turn to page 32 in your workbooks…

(Stern Words)