Thanks to Kimber Chin for sharing her writing techniques.
A while back, I mentioned Wordle as a nifty "toy" for making word clouds. Thanks to a couple of Twitter posts, I decided to plug in my synopsis instead of just giving the tool my blog URL. The more often a word is used in the text you feed, the larger it will appear in the cloud.
The largest words are character names, which is good. A synopsis will focus on the characters. I also noticed that many of the dominant words were critical plot points. Also good.
(if you click on the image, you should be able to see an enlarged view)
On a whim, I decided to paste in Chapter One of my manuscript. I got a couple of surprises—
Two words that jumped out were "around" and "still." Checking the entire manuscript, there were 139 "arounds" and 91 "stills". I hadn't noticed them on my editing rounds.
So it was back to pulling weeds. I not only found that many of the "stills" weren't necessary, but that they were often part of entire sentences that weren't necessary. "Around" is also an oft-repeated word. Not sure how many of those I can delete. I looked for them in the book I was reading last night and found a lot there too. But since I didn't notice them until I started looking, I'm not too worried about that one.
The oversize "Looked" didn't surprise me. It's a word I use a lot, and I'll check that one again as well. However, we're visual creatures, and sometimes avoiding a common word is more awkward and intrusive than using it.
Common words might slide by a reader. The writer has to be more aware of overuse of the uncommon words, because they will hop off the page. As writers, we also fall into comfortable descriptive phrases.
In recent reads, I've noticed an author liked to use a character's forehead in description. It's fine for one character to have a high forehead, but if you use that description for another, it's likely to make the reader stop and notice the writing more than the character. Another author used the word "skate" for the way characters' hands moved along the other's body. After a couple of repeats, it was another hiccup on the read. In another book, characters were blowing their dialogue out on a sigh.
Do these things affect the story? No, of course not. And maybe these are things only other writers will notice. I know I'm aware of new and different ways to describe something, simply because I get tired of trying to find a new way to show it.
Hubby and I are volunteering at the International SWAT Roundup competition. It's my second year; his first. We work the concession stand but get to sneak out from time to time to watch what's going on. Hubby, I'm sure, will be checking out all the nifty toys in the vendor booth on his breaks. I'll be checking out all the hot SWAT cops. And, if things go well, I'll have reports and pictures. But for the next few days, I won't be around to respond to comments as rapidly as I like to.