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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Writing - Editing tip - Work in progress progresses – 2

Catalyst - #1 in the 'Avenging Cat' series

It’s that time again. My next novel Cataclysm, #3 in the ‘Avenging Cat’ series, is completed, and the self-edit is ongoing, prior to it being vetted by Jennifer, my wife, before being sent to the publisher, Crooked Cat.

Part of that self-edit process involves tackling word-repetitions. Some are word-echoes, repetitions that occur more than once often in the same page, while others are simply examples of lazy writing that needs livening up.

The repetitions I’ve identified by using the Word search are shown below. I’ve started work on these; some have been reduced in number already (see brackets); be wary of replacing one repetition with another, however!

Smiled – 23 (9)

Nodded – 48 (18)

Laughed – 8 (this is good, I made a conscious effort while writing to avoid using this!) (3)

Grinned – 14 – (not bad, either) (6)

Sighed – 4 (again, I was on the look-out for this so they are few) (3)

Looked – 26 (22)

Moment – 37 (11)

Glanced – 40

Few – 40

Down – 58

Up – 145 (horrendous! Search entails a space in front of and after this word)

Out – 142 (same applies as above…)

Back – 72 (ditto)

Just – 36 (I tried to avoid using this word so much, will definitely excise most)

Called – 34

Saw – 19

Walked – 37

Ran – 32

Pointed – 22

Suddenly – 5 (not bad, but probably too many)

Seemed – 49

Felt – 52

Thought – 49

Though – 30 (I've noticed in other books that sometimes this is used when the writer meant 'thought')

Shrugged – 14 (again, while writing I tried to avoid using this, but it can still be reduced)

Stepped – 46 (surprised at this, but this number will get reduced)

Turned – 75 (far too many!)

Shook – 33

What’s the point of all this?  Often, the repeated word (and its associated phrase) is redundant. And tidying up at this stage can improve the narrative flow.
The above list shows those words I’m familiar with in the repetition stakes; there may be others, of course, and hopefully they will come to light in the final re-read.



Pelotard said...

Question. Do you have a pre-compiled list of words that you know that you personally use too often, or did you simply sort all the words in your MS alphabetically and look at the ones with a high frequency (not counting "the", "a", "it" and the like, I presume)?

I can find reasons to use either - the first one requires a keen eye for your own writing, which is difficult to develop; I read a novel once where the author would have been well advised not to use the word "circumfluous" all that often, although it was probably only four times or so, and this would probably not have been picked up by the second method.

Nik Morton said...

Pelotard, thanks for asking. I've built up a list based on my years of editing other people's books, as well as my own. Tellingly, I missed off a very common culprit - 'some' - which is overused by many. 'Thing' is another, which should hardly ever be used! Yes, the repetition of an unusual word will always stand out so unless it is a technical one - such as 'catananche' which is used in CATALYST - I try to avoid overusing those! A final read-through should throw up a few more, I suspect.

Richard Sutton said...

Once would have been egregious, Pelo! ;)

Nik, do you use the search & replace function to ferret out these duplications?

Nik Morton said...

Richard, I use the search but don't use the replace. I examine each instance - some can stay, others may need altering due to context, while some will be excised as superfluous. Often, I find a different way to say the same thing.