I am knee deep in the content edits for my new novel FIRE IN THE WOODS. The turn-around on the editing is KILLER.
So far, I’ve done okay. Easy changes to make the plot-lines flow more smoothly.
Then I got to the hard stuff.
The editor mentioned three words she felt were over used. So I went back and revised them to a minimum. However, in doing this, I made notes of what I changed those words to in order to make sure I did not overuse these new words as well.
This is when the editing became a nightmare. Each overused word I found, I changed. If it was a new word, I added it to the list to check later.
In the end, I had a list of 94 words to check. Each time I made a change, if it was a new word, I added it to the list. My goal was to use the words no more than once every twenty pages. Now, I have to admit they got a little closer than that at the end. There are just so many ways to explode something. But this process was long and tedious for me.
This led to long nights and a weekend behind the computer.
Okay, maybe I did NOT need to do this now. This kind of thing is normally not part of the content edit, but now that I saw the problem, I could not send it back until it was fixed. The perfectionist in me just wouldn’t allow it.
I mean seriously: Do characters have to shake their heads/hands/or other extremities 94 times?
For your own search-and-destroy pleasure, here is the list of 94 words, and the rabbit trail that followed. Not all of these words were overused, but most of them were. For instance, “spewed” only appears once in my manuscript, but it was a word that I used to replace something else.
My challenge: Take a look for these in your own manuscripts. Some involving explosions may not apply to everyone, but some of the everyday words might surprise you. Try to use them only once every 20 pages and feel my pain.
I’ve already handed in my edits, and just reading over that list again made me tired.
I know I’ve said it before, Jennifer, but I agree with some of your friends. You definitely should be an editor. Repetition. It’s amazing how we as writers don’t see it sometimes, until others point it out. In the memoir about going to college with five kids in tow, I see it all the time. How many ways can you say the University of Pennsylvania in a longer manuscript? I used 3: U of P; Ivy League, and the university. But repetition matters in the YA short stories that I write as well, probably even more so as they are so short, about 1800 words or shorter. And sometimes, I need better eyes than my to see it. And some of your culprits are in the list. Thanks for a great post! ~Victoria Marie Lees
Holy cow! Sounds like YOU should be an editor!!
Ha! I probably made her life a little easier. I’m pretty anal. Once I got started I couldn’t stop.
Oh, in the midst of slowly writing a first draft, I don’t even want to think about those overused favorite pets! They’ll be slashed later, though, have no fear!
Actually, I think being do aware of them now, I’m trying NOT to use them in book two. I think many squeeze in during editing though
I know I repeat words but it all depends on the content. If I notice a repeat twice, I check the whole story. Yep, it’s a merry-go-round. 😀
Thanks for this post. Necessary subject.
I’m just surprised at your list. “Itch” was one of the ones you used frequently? And its rhyming partner, “hitch”? That’s interesting. I think the words I tend to overuse have to do with subject matter, not so much character dialogue tags.
Sometimes it’s used in a way you might not expect. Things tended to itch at her. And hitch was not used too much. But since I used it to replace something, I automatically added it to the list to check and make sure I had not used the word to much or too closely.
Once you notice the spot, you just have to keep scrubbing. Editing is the same situation? – had to giggle. Worth the effort, but glad that’s done – whew!
Wow! Awesome list! Thanks!
That DOES sound tedious. I tend to use ‘ing’ words too much, and then have to go through and use something better!
As a writer of shifter fantasy, I find growled comes up alot more than it needs to. Good in depth post. Gives me another avenue to explore as I continue on this journey.