Monday, June 22, 2009

And Justice for All!

Yesterday I started what I'm hoping are the final rounds of edits. I had three readers go through this latest draft and while their edits were minor, they all caught details that will help make my manuscript shine.

I don't know if you read the editing article that I linked on Thursday, but one of the points said to do a search for crutch words, or words that you use too often. Especially adverbs. Yeah, those dreaded -ly words. I was very conscious of my adverb usage while writing -- in fact, there were so few that I added a lot during subsequent drafts -- so I wasn't too concerned with purple prose, but there are a couple words that I know I use a lot.

Especially, finally, actually, only, and just.

I used the handy Find tool to search for each word, and highlighted them a certain color so they'd stand out. Then I scrolled through and counted. Yes, it was very time consuming.

I started with actually -- only 20. Not bad.

Next up, especially -- too few to even count.

Next, finally -- 15. Huh. Not even even one per chapter. Maybe it's not as bad as I thought.

Only -- 125. Hmm... not terrible, but I'm sure I can remove a few of those.

Finally (*snort), just -- 218. Excuse me? *double checks* Yes, 218. As in, almost 20 per chapter. But there are several chapters with only one or two instances, which means I used just way more than ten times in the other chapters. I was scared at how many times I'd written it two or three times in one paragraph, but the worst offender is page 97: just appears six time. SIX. After a quick reread, there's only one instance that I can delete without rewriting (or at the very least finding a new word), so I've got some work ahead of me. Ugh.

Do you have any words you overuse? Do you know of an easier way to count how many times a word occurs without doing it manually?

29 comments:

Melanie's Mom said...

As a lawyer, the "-ly" word that I have to watch is "clearly." I learned in law school that if you have to say something is "clearly" one way or the other, it must not be, so the answer is to rewrite the sentence -- not add the word "clearly." A good exercise...

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, you're so smart. :)

I didn't check for clearly -- I'll have to do that today.

EriCan said...

That's not too bad out of a 80,000+ MS, I do have some ly words in mine too, I've been trying to keep track all along, but sadly I'm sure I will have a lot.

Let's see crutch words. Well I have a crutch symbol... (the ellipsis) is my crutch, big time. Also, the word, Yeah. good thing I'm only in my first draft!

Great post- Good Luck with the editing :)

DJ FOX said...

What you could do it use the find/replace tool. And replace 'just' with something like 'used.' and it should tell you how many times that word was replaced so how many time it was in the document. then you can switch it back. at least that's a quick way to find out how often you use the word!

Robin said...

Oh, how I love the word "actually". Must I really stop using it? That makes me sad. Actually, it makes me psychotic.

spyscribbler said...

You know, I've been trying to find this for ages: there used to be a program that would list your most often used words. It'd make a list for you, so even if you didn't realize to search for it, it would show you. I can't remember or figure out what that program was, but I would love to have it.

Penguin said...

I would note a word of caution on DJ Fox's advise.
Do not use a known word. When you go to replace it back you could change a word that was suppose to be.
Otherwise a pretty good idea.

Pink Ink said...

What a great idea, Melanie. Sometimes, the only way I catch these repetitive words is when my beta readers tell me.

Melanie Avila said...

OMG, Erica, I was trying to figure out the percentage out of the total words and my computer kept giving me a weird answer with an "e". Oh well.

I like ellipses too. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Hi DJ! Does that definitely tell you how many? I could try a sample one.

But like Penguin says, if I try that, I'll use a word like flamboyant, which doesn't appear in my wip.

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, you can keep using it. :P

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I thought about that word cloud thing, but I don't know if it can handle an 80K+ document.

Melanie Avila said...

Penguin, see my answer to him for the word I'd use. :P Thanks for the tip.

Melanie Avila said...

Pink, my beta readers haven't seemed to notice, so hopefully that means they're well placed. (They have caught lots of other good stuff, so I'm not faulting them AT ALL!)

I just finished a book last night and wanted to scream because the word phlegmatically appeared more times than should ever happen.

jcaddell said...

Interesting. I've never thought about word repetition. I know that I rely on commas a lot. Apparently, I pause a lot, in a sentence. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Jen, I pause a lot, too.

Melanie Avila said...

I just counted -- I only have clearly eight times.

DJ FOX said...

Penguin - GOOD POINT!

Melanie - Use a word that you know isn't already in your manuscript so you don't even up replacing other words!

But other than that - it should work and tell you "Word made 82 replacements" or something like that. And you can adjust to match case or not, etc.

Melanie Avila said...

Good to know!

anneskal said...

Here's a great site that helps find all those pesky words. (And it's from one of the guys from AW.) http://www.rogerjcarlson.com/WritingHelp/TechTips.html
(--"stormie" on AW)

Melanie Avila said...

Hey Stormie!! Thanks for the link. :)

Janine said...

Oh my gosh, you TOTALLY need the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. (LY-adverb intended, lol).

The Editing Wizard checks for a whole bunch of overused words (including LY-adverbs) and alerts you IF you overuse them. If you have a few LY-adverbs in your text, it won't alert you. If you've dumped them in, it will alert you.

It does way more than that, too. You can check for cliches, redundancies, slow pacing, etc. It can really help you sharpen up your manuscript. I love it -- if you hadn't guessed :-)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

You're way ahead of me...and I dread finding out what my "words" are, because if we use 'em so much, they must be important to us. ;)

And your blog post title is best of all!! :)

colbymarshall said...

I use the find/replace tool on my computer. And yes, I use variations of the word breathe far to much!

Melanie Avila said...

Janine, it sounds like a great program!

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, I'm amazed at how these titles just jump out at me.

(did you see that?)

Melanie Avila said...

Colby, my characters are always catching their breath. For awhile their breath was catching "in their throat" until one reader asked "where else would it catch?" Cut three words!

Nadine said...

I think I use just a lot too. And finally. And I'm sure a lot of others too. I'm going to have to check now...:)

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I was surprised how infrequently I used "finally", because I do like it. Now "just"... it's killing me to take them out!