I believe it was the movie Mean Girls that first introduced this term to me, and I thought it was an apt description of what I see a lot in the submissions I’ve read. Word Vomit is a phrase I use to describe a writer who literally spews forth words on the page and then does not go back to clean up the mess. This is evidenced by the use of purple prose, unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, run on sentences, and endless meaningless dialogue.
When I write my first draft, I do tend to “throw up” all over the pages and let the hands just keep on typing whatever comes to mind. But in the first round of edits cleaning up word vomit is the first task at hand. Why use three words when one word will do? Don’t use the word “was” and my personal pet peeve “had been” to excess. It throws your narrative into a passive voice and you want to remain active. If you are using adverbs then in most cases you’ve chosen the wrong verb. You should rarely have to describe the action of your verb with an adverb.
Don’t get too flowery with your prose. I had a recent discussion with an agent trying to sell manuscripts and she told me that publishers are rarely taking anything under 70,000 words for a novel and NOTHING over 85,000 words. Most rejections are due to word vomit. Clean up those manuscripts, tighten those sentences, make it lean and clean, and I bet you will have more success at getting someone to review your manuscript. This is hard, I know, but well worth the pain.
Please share your tips for how you clean up your own Word Vomit.