September 8, 2011

pick a little, write a little

While spending an enjoyable Sunday night at home during Labor Day weekend, I wandered on to the Savvy Authors website. I'm always finding something new there and decided to check out the "Resources" tab.

I clicked on "Autocritter," which detects overused or weak words in your manuscript when you copy and paste it into the resource (up to 85,000 words).

Feeling smug about my book, which is well into its third draft, I uploaded what I had.

Here was my result:

Holy bananas! Look at all that read. Plus, I only submitted the first 83,888 words of my 96,000-word manuscript, which means it must be even worse.

Friends, I almost cried. My smug grin was gone and replaced by a dropped jaw. I am a professional writer, or so the job description in my company's policy manual says. How could I possibly overuse so many crappy words?

After taking a moment to grieve and contemplate chucking my book completely, I decided to take the challenge and reduce those numbers as much as I could.

It was hard. I mean, some of the words, such as "so/ very/ really," "all," "could," and "key/ major/ meaningful/ important/ significant" were easy to reduce. Well, not easy, it took me several hours, but I managed. I did it by using "find" in Microsoft Word, and went through it bit by bit.

Tip: When using find to identify words, such as "so," it will include every word containing s-o. What I did was type: SPACE so SPACE. It helped. Granted, that meant I couldn't find "so" when it appeared at the beginning or end of a sentence, but it was a fast way to get rid of the bulk.

Though I made significant progress, I have a long ways to go. I even keep having that dreaded thought of throwing out the book and starting over, but I'm sticking with it. I may file this book away for a while and move on to something else, but this was a good exercise.

It taught me to consider every word you write in a story. Though I may continue to make mistakes and slip into my old ways, at least I'll know my biggest trouble spots.

I encourage any of your writers to check out the "Autocritter" resource on Savvy Authors, too. It's certainly an eye opener.

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