Filler and Fluff

The process of editing is tough on a good day. After finishing my fourth novel, I decided that in order to help promote the sale, I would go back and clean up my first three (since it’s a series) and place them as the second edition to run along with the introduction of book four. Wow! I thought my editing was fairly on point. It was shocking to see how many fluff and filler words I had been using. Mostly it came down to a few words I used constantly throughout the book, in dialogue as well as narration.

  • My guilty pleasures: just, of course, but, all, about, and then, had, seem, very, really. Those are my worst ones.

None of them are harmful words on their own. However, use the same word 50+ times on one page…it can be a problem. The struggle is, they’re part of the local dialogue where I live. Many of them are fine in conversation. In a book, they can slow down the pace. We don’t want that. If the pace slows too much, the reader might lose interest. The same rule applies to adverbs. Too many adverbs can do some serious damage to your book. I encourage you as writers to go back through your own stories and find places you can trim the fat. Not only will your book flow better, it is more presentable to agents and publishing companies. If you want to sell books, those are the people you have to impress. If you want readers to stay on the edge of their seats, the story needs a good rhythm.

We most often use filler words in our rough drafts. At the time they are harmless because we’re writing, not editing. Here are some examples sentences being clogged by fluff.

  • It was just so boring. Or, It was boring. It says the same thing, right?
  • So, I decided I would go to the store just around the corner where they had my favorite drink, but when I got there I was really sad because they had just run out.                                                                                  Or,

I went to the store around the corner. I was sad they were out of my favorite drink.

As you can see in those examples, you can make the exact same statement with fewer words. Boring is boring. Does it need to be: just so boring? Can you be sad? Or do you need to be really sad? In your edits, comb through them as best you can in order to remove the fluff…the filler words that do not help your writing. The more you tighten your prose, the more professional it looks, meaning the better chance of success when pitching to a publisher. This goes for any genre of writing. Poetry is different. Sometimes the fluff is necessary. For most of us, neat and tidy is what we want.

So… get rid of the fillers and fluff.