Every person who works at excelling at something, anything, has an Achilles heel. That thing they try to eliminate, but can't quite seem to entirely remove. Writers, especially beginning ones, but even aged and well-published ones, have an Achilles heel.
For example, Jane Smiley says that when she recognizes she is using the word Just she is generally off her narrative line and, as she says, blathering on.
Often, we don't realize we are doing this as we write. It's only after we finish a section or piece that we then realize our tic has reappeared. There are also those who don't know they have an Achilles heel. If you think you don't, you do, and you need to figure it out so you can fix it or at least not let it ruin final drafts and drive editors crazy or cause the rejection of the piece.
Writers can also have tics that are particular to a piece of writing. For example, I'm writing a book that principally takes place within the mind of a twelve-year-old girl. As I began the writing I recognized quite quickly that a lot of sentences began with "I" and then a verb. Usually something like, "I felt..." "I heard..." "I looked..." "I saw..." "I was..." etc.
Other tics I have are Additionally, Merely, Much, Just, The, etc.
Used once in a while these phrasings aren't so bad, but when they crop up often and repeatedly they make the writing dull, unimaginative, boring, repetitive, and so on.
How to fix a Tic
I work on a PC because I love Word (far better program than what Apple has to offer and many Apple users find themselves using Scrivener or some other software product with the functionality of Word) and I also use OneNote to keep notes for the projects I'm working on as well as notes on writing generally. Within every project note and my general writing note I list my identified tics, such as the phrases above.
When I finish a chapter or section I go through and search for the phrase and rewrite the sentence. Sometimes the tic has ruined an entire paragraph and I have to rewrite the whole paragraph, but the end result is much better writing and reading experience.
There are other uses for OneNote and a similar program that I'll write about in future posts, but for now it is important to identify your Achilles heel and fix it or do a good job editing it out.