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:
First ***SAVE YOUR DOCUMENT—JUST IN CASE***
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.
MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE!
I’ll set her free in 300 pages.