Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper:What stupid writing thing did your Beta Reader find this week?

I have to reiterate that Beta Readers are just the greatest thing EVER.  Especially if you can find someone who is almost as anal as you are!

I just had a beta reader finish a 50-page excerpt.  She made some good comments, but the best thing she did was highlight every time I used the words “Step”, “Smile”, and “Suddenly”.

I read over her comments, and initially thought “it’s not that bad”.  Then, like a good little author, I closed it, took a deep breath, and came back to it another day.  What I did the second time, is used my favorite “Search and Replace Tip” to count how many times I used these words.

For those of you who have not read my previous article, here is the trick:


Find the word you want to count.  Let’s use “suddenly”.  Open up the “Find/replace” feature in Word.  Search for “suddenly”, and replace with “suddenly”.  JUST MAKE SURE YOU TYPE IT EXACTLY THE SAME WAY so it replaces it with exactly the same word.  When you “Replace All” it will give you a count of how many times it replaced “suddenly”.  BOOM! You now know how many times you used your word.

I found that I used “suddenly” 13 times in 50 pages.  That means one of my characters “suddenly” did something every four pages or so.  I didn’t even realize it.  Absolutely unacceptable!  The funny thing is, I was able to delete almost every one with no other changes, and it was fine.  It was just an unnecessary word.

She is the second person to point out that my characters smile a lot.  So I did my little trick.  YIKES!  Someone smiled 30 times!  That’s once every page and a half!  I sure to have a lot of happy characters, although many were smiling while thinking mean thoughts.  Yes, I went thorough and made some changes.

Next check:  the word “stepped”.  Holy Cow!  In the 50 pages, it counted the word “step” 94 times.  That means someone “stepped” almost twice on every page.  I knew I had characters “stepping” but not quite that much!  Most of the time it is just to get movement into the story, so I need to work that out, and give them different things to do rather than walking around all over the place.

Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper… even when you know not to do stupid things, you may just read over it when it is your own story.

Beta Readers… they are worth their weight in gold.

If you don’t have a Beta Reader, go get one… but keep away from Ravena.

She’s MINE!  Mine, do you hear me?

***she cackles***


I’ll set her free in 300 pages.

Thanks Ravena!




27 responses to “Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper:What stupid writing thing did your Beta Reader find this week?

  1. Pingback: What stupid writing thing did your beta find this week? Darth Vader Syndrome | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. OMG where do I get one!?!

    No really, I hate when I read the same word or phrase over and over again when I’m reading a book. I’m able to catch myself sometimes, but I would love a second set of anal eyes. (LOL @ “anal eyes”)

  3. I just loved this post. I lived in fear of having someone look over my writing, but what I’ve discovered as a result is well worth the effort.
    My characters are habitual shruggers. They shrug after everything, and I had no idea they did until my gem of a beta reader pointed it out to me.
    It’s as if I have a blind spot concerning my own words, weird, but so easy to fix. 🙂

  4. Isn’t find and replace the greatest tool ever! I tend to have a lot of characters winking. If people really smiled and winked as much as I write them, they’d look freaky in the real world. I mean, when was the last time you winked? Yeah, it’s been awhile for me too. Unless you’re a big fan of suddenly smiling and winking while you’re stepping.

    Thanks for the linky love!

  5. Aww… thanks, Jennifer. I’m glad I could be of assistance! 🙂

  6. I’ll have to do that trick. I know I have a tendency to use Smile a lot. Will have to wipe those SMILES off my characters faces. Happiness is boring in fiction.

  7. 😀 I had to smile when I read this post but I tried to not suddenly step out of the room…
    I just received comments on my first chapter by my beta reader/cp and wow I am AMAZED by how wonderful getting feedback can be! 😀

  8. Great post! I need to find a beta reader.

  9. haha – my characters were always sighing last draft. sigh, sigh, sigh.

    i’m about to send to beta readers now – can’t wait to see what they dig up for me 😉

  10. That’s a very handy tip. I use find and then find next to step through each one, but doing what you suggest lets you know whether it’s a problem or not. Very helpful 🙂

  11. Beta readers with attention to detail are the GREATEST! I have found that my different readers will pick on a different word. In my last novel, the words were, hurt, lonely and bangs kept showing up.

    Everyone of my characters had bangs, and I let you know. Talk about boring. Only a true beta reader will point things out that you can’t see.

  12. Thanks for the great information.

  13. That was a really great topic to focus on. Thanks, Jenn. I’m going into my revision phase now and I am scared *itless.

  14. I agree with you 100% on the worth of beta readers. Mine also acts as my editor (which I give credit to in my books and my first novel was dedicated to her) and I depend on her to find all my stupid little mistakes. Unfortunately, she doesn’t catch them all and apparently, neither do I. 😛

  15. Thanks Jennifer, my BETA reader is not only as anal, she gets into my head and heart … almost like she knows what I wanted to say, but neglected to say it 🙂 They are worth more than their weight in gold, they are a precious gift and when we realize they are in this with us for the long haul, we feel like we have been introduced to our guardian angel.

    • When you find a really good one, they’re worth holding on to. One of my early betas has turned into one of my best friends, although we’ve never even met in person.

  16. Thanks for such a helpful post. I’ll need to try that find/replace feature in my own manuscript. Great tip!

  17. I had a similar experience. It’s amazing how many times I used certain words or phrases without knowing it. Thank goodness for Beta Readers!

  18. Yes, my usage of “very” and “so” is beyond acceptable limits in first drafts. I use a tool that shows me how many times you have overused certain words according to industry standards. You must be a premium member of to use it, but it is very helpful. It highlights all your overused words.

  19. Nice post. Thanks for the mention. 😉

  20. SNORT (!) on Ravena, Jennifer. I’m sure she’s pleased with that Hallmark-worthy pic you selected for her. The problem with author-specific filler words is we don’t see them. They’re just “there” doing their job. WOOT! Look at that–they’re, there and their in one sentence. But, I digress…

    AMAZING what he we discover to be our filler words. I had one chapter of my WIP sanitized DAILY by inner editor (Gracie). Why daily? Because I used to open my WIP at Page One with the intent of using the “go to” command to get to the beginning of the prior days’ writing. Yes. Gracie lolly-gagged in that first chapter each time she saw it. I’ve since had to dodge the edit-to-death bullet by creating a new work file that includes ONLY the words written the prior day.


    There is FUN site called You copy and paste selected text from your ms in the box. In my case, I pasted that sanitized chapter one. When you “create,” wordle filters out normal extraneous words (the, it, and, as, she, he, etc) and produces a word cloud. Frequency of use dictates size of the word in the resultant cloud. The largest word on mine? BACK. Hunh? Back? This wasn’t a steamy scene. Seems everyone in the scene sat back, looked back, stepped back, felt a spider-like touch on their back, went back…you get the picture.

    For now, Wordle is my Beta Reader for search-and-destroy targets. We’ll see what Little Red has to say when she gets her first installment on her birthday. GREAT TOPIC (as always),oh wise one!

    This concludes my novella as comment for the day.