Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Paula wonders if you ever need the word ‘sudden’ or ‘suddenly’ in your stories.

I’ve been revising/editing my first novel (His Leading Lady) for re-publication, as I recently got my rights back from the publisher (long story, which I won’t go into here!). This story was first published in 2011, but I actually wrote it about five years ago. And wow, have I learned a lot since then! I haven’t changed the story itself, apart from deciding Kyle needed full Highland dress—a kilt and jacket with silver buttons over a silk shirt (quick swoon)—instead of a tuxedo for the opening night of his West End show!

What I have had to change, though, is a whole raft of repeated words. The usual culprits – that, then, so, just, maybe etc. In some cases, this involved, not just deleting the words, but rewriting sentences, even whole paragraphs, to make the new sentences flow smoothly.

I was surprised when I realised how much I had used the words ‘sudden’ or ‘suddenly’- and ended up deleting them all.

Here some examples of where I realised the word either wasn’t needed, or required another word:
Suddenly she wished …
She wasn’t sure whether it was sudden concern…
He grinned suddenly. (Hmm, that happened several times)
Suddenly his words came back to her,
In sudden panic…
The hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stood up.
He said suddenly (again, several times)
She had a sudden urge to…

Well, you get the picture. I had used ‘sudden’ or ‘suddenly’ 64 times, and either deleted or replaced the offending word with another word e.g. in the last example, I changed ‘sudden’ to ‘compelling’. I ended up with none of the original 64 ‘sudden(ly) words.

Maybe it was ‘lazy’ writing when I originally wrote this story, because, in a sense, it’s telling rather than showing, and most times you can delete it or replace it with a stronger word (as I’ve done)

However, it made me wonder if there are any occasions when you really need to use the word, either as an adjective or adverb. I’d be interested to see if anyone has any examples of when sudden or suddenly should be used!


  1. I use "suddenly" sparingly. There are times with action scenes (since I write a lot of suspense and thrillers) that I can't avoid "suddenly" because it moves the action along, but I don't stress about them being there. If you feel it shouldn't be there, cut it out. If you feel it's necessary, then keep it. I always make sure I don't start a sentence with "suddenly" though.

    1. I can see why you might need the word in action scenes, Chrys. That's an interesting point about not starting a sentence with suddenly.

  2. Hmn? I've been working on 'word' edits...looking for uses of 'that', 'reached', 'felt', 'saw' etc. I'm going to have to put 'suddenly' in there and see what comes up. I wonder if I use it a lot?

    And I'm totally with you on the full Highland dress. May we swoon together?!

  3. LOL@ the full Highland dress, Debra. He definitely looks good in it! And yes, those danged repeated words are a pain to ferret out, aren't they? I've spent hours on 'find' and then trying to replace or rephrase! At least now I watch out for them as I go along, but my first book was littered with them!

  4. Love the Highland dress too! I think the only time you need either of the words is if you're talking about a moment in time and there's no other stronger verb to express that. In other words, not very often. :)