Pat Holt's Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do), by way of Paperback Writer's blog (an excellent daily read, btw, by someone who writes full-time in five different genres.)
#1, coincidentally, is about overused words, which the author calls “crutch words.” Ms. Holt makes the point that they're most often simple words, but in cases where it's a unique word – a real 50-dollar word – you should only use it *once.* She then goes on to document the overuse of a couple of words by specific authors.
I wonder, if I were to go through The Scar with a highlighter, how many uses of “ossify” and “puissant” I would find. I'm guessing dozens of each.
This is one of those things that I do notice in other people's writing, and *sometimes* catch in my own. My novelist friend used “illuminate” twice in two pages and I marked it up. I caught a couple of overuses in Sweetwater Kill the last time I went throught it (can't remember what they were, though.)
Pat Holt makes useful suggestions here. (Those Empty Adverbs definitely creep into my writing.) I'll add it to my arsenal of editing tools. My writing will be better for it.
By the way, I don't want my little gripe about those words to put anyone off reading the book. I recommend it highly, and I will soon buy everything else Mieville has written. (Forgive me for being too lazy to find the proper code to produce the accented 'e' in his name.)