“She drew in a deep breath…”

Lately, I’ve been entrenched in an awful lot of transcribing, as I’m happily filling up many notebooks and I want to get those drafts committed to a typed copy sooner rather than later. The nice thing about transcribing is that it can work as a little bit of a light edit, in that I keep mostly everything true to the original to be subjected to heavy editing later, but I can do a few little twerks and tweaks here and there as I type. Another interesting thing about transcribing more than one project in close proximity to each other is that you really, really, really start to notice your bad habits.

Oh, how we notice our bad habits! If I had five cents for every time I’ve typed the phrase “drew in a deep breath” or “shook his/her head,” I would no longer need my day job. It’s a little astounding how much these frequently used phrases pop up, and I’m glad for it, because it’s making me more aware of how I write certain things and giving me plenty of flags to keep an eye out for while I’m editing. That’s the brilliant thing about transcribing. For an aware author, it’s a great way to spot your weaknesses and try to improve on them.

Have you noticed any oft-used phrases in your own books? “Drew in a deep breath” and “shook his/her head” seem to be just the tip of the iceberg for me; I’ve also noticed myself using “before he/she knew it” an awful lot lately, too, now that I’ve been careful to avoid the first two. I’m pretty sure there will always be a “fallback phrase” that authors use habitually…I’m reminded of my favorite, when Kevin J. Anderson uses the term “brandy-brown eyes” to describe Jacen and Jaina Solo in the Young Jedi Knights series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a few books (admittedly Magic: the Gathering books, which I’m sure aren’t exactly lauded for their literary merit) where the same noticeable phrase is used twice in the same paragraph! It’s always a little reassuring to come across that, knowing I’m definitely not the only one who has this affliction.

That said, I’m left shaking my head at this conundrum. I’ll just have to draw in a deep breath and bolster myself for another day of editing and picking out more of these repetitive faux pas.

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