Once I've completed a manuscript and revised it to the point where I'm just plain sick of it, I let it rest a bit before coming back for what I call a "polish and shine".
Then I do the following:
1. Using the Find and Replace function in my Word document, I search for all the words used too frequently. Words that have no value and only add to the word count, like: well, so, began, just, that, was. These are my key words (ones I tend to overuse), yours might be different.
2. Scanning each located word, I delete or change it. Sometimes it can be changed to a more active verb or phrase (especially in the case of began and was). If I'm still unsure whether I like the changes I made on a specific page, I highlight the sentence in red and come back to it later.
3. I do the same with my physical descriptors. For my list of weaknesses, I automatically look up heart, breathe, breath and pulse. I use the Bookshelf Muse's fantastic emotions thesauraus to come up with better descriptors to add variety. I also consider using other senses in the scene--instead of sight, how about smell or touch, for example. Or how about some interiority instead?
Do you do anything similar?
Yes, I do all those things. I also go through each sentence to see how I can make it stronger, and especially each paragraph to see if I can rearrange it so it ends with a strong word. It adds more impact.
Doing this now and I think I'm getting there. :) Thanks and my husband wants that car.
Always. It's amazing how those value-less words accumulate. I go through my manuscripts with a fine tooth comb, more than once, cleaning it up. I'll also read it in different ways, like printed out, and then on my Nook, to "see" it differently each time.
I am a chronic abuser of the word "just." The good thing is, I'm so aware of it now that every time I type it, I stop and ask myself if I really need it in that sentence. If the answer is no, I delete immediately.
I probably should! But if I change a word out of context, I undoubtedly change it to something else I have over used...
I have to go through it chronologically. And I have to go through every part.
But, yes, I still miss stuff. Thank God for editors!
Great tips, Christina. :) It's interesting to see your frequently used words. :)
I read the whole darn thing out loud! (When nobody is around!) I also email it to my Kindle, b/c that's where agents and editors read manuscripts, and often the formatting looks different on that device. I also hand the Kindle over to my husband. He's a technical guy, so he catches the tiniest of glitches, like a door opening the wrong way, or an error in dates/times. Also, my 12 yo does a read-through. Often, her opinion weighs heavily on my MG writer-mind. :)
Such good suggestions from everybody!
Oooh, I'm stealing all these suggestions! I have so many problem words, and your method is so much better than my going through by hand!
I do a find for the word "look", it seems to be my go to word, but like you I have a list of words that I try to identify and change.
Such great editing advice! I'm not editing right now, but I probably will be soon. *panic*
Wow I didn't even know word could do that! hahaha. Cool.
I generally go through it with a fine tooth comb, but it takes way too long, so maybe I should adopt some better methods.
I overuse looked. I put my ms into a word cloud to see what word is used too often (besides character names of course) and the overused ones jump out at you!
I'm trying to do these things at the moment. It's a long, slow process!
The first time I ditched those common words and watched a thousand words evaporate off my count, I was stunned. I do all this, and I use a program called Cliche Cleaner as well--I usually discover some unexpected common phrases as well.
I have a problem with the word look too. Great sdvice, everyone!
I do find and replace, but read recently about a function in word that allows you to highlight the word as you write it. Like make it all caps, so you can see it right away. Lots of interesting tips in the comments.
That's exactly what I do. I have my list of overused words (by me) and check throughout to see where they're absolutely essential, and where I can get rid of them. It's amazing what a huge difference that little step can make!
Great post Christina. It's good to see everybody's suggestions and ideas. Interesting as some of your frequently used words are mine too :-). Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm glad it's not just me. :-) c u soon x
I have such a huge list of crutch actions and word repeats, that I will always do a final pass just for those things. I make good use of Word Find and Replace, and count the instances of certain words, colors and actions.
Thanks for the mention! I'm glad the brain bank of our entries is helping you--this is so great to hear! :)
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
I also have a master list of over-used words and phrases. I keep expecting it to get shorter, but with each book, the old ones are just replaced with new ones. Bleh.
Thanks for the mention. I use the emotion thesaurus all the time when editing :).
Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse
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