Please stop using that word

Last week I talked about the current editing work I'm putting in.  One of the items on my must-fix list was whittling down all my over-used words. Lucky for us writers there are tons of blogs out there with helpful lists of words that lots of folks flood the pages with. If you haven't seen these, here are just a few.

Go Into The Story
Learned About Writing

I'm also a big fan of Janice Hardy.  She has tons of help on her site.

So I started with these master lists of bad words, but I quickly realized that I probably have a few of my own unique bad boys.  The trick would be figuring out what they are.

My first tip is to print out your novel, but do it a little different.  Remove all the line spaces and indents and all the white space that makes for good formatting.  By cramming all your words together it makes it easier to see when you have the word 'just' eight times on one page.  Not that I did that...

There is also a really neat website out there to help you identify your problem words.  It's also fun to use which makes it feel like your playing when you're really working.  Sneaky.

The website is Wordle and here's the fun part.  You enter your entire text and it gives you a fun graphic with all your big words.  The larger the word font, the more times that word appears in your text.  So after you get over all your character names and major locations you can see where you need work.

In the spirit of sharing, here is my hot mess:

So if you skip my character names, the other stuff is pretty easy to see.  I already mentioned that 'just' is an issue.  I also struggle with 'like' because I am overly fond of simile (the first step is recognizing you have a problem). While some of these I expected, other were a surprise.  I didn't see 'time', 'head' or 'back' coming.

Now, that's not to say I can't use these words, but knowledge is power, right?  I can use the amazing ctrl+F to look at where I have these words and figure out if something else would work better.

Let me end this post with a little ctrl+F advice I discovered.  It has been my experience that using this function on your entire document is not helpful.  By the time I get halfway through I start skipping the word instead of trying to change it.  I can only do so much.  I have found I'm more focused if I work through my list one chapter at a time.  If I spread it out, it doesn't seem so tedious and I'm more likely to want to fix the problems.

I hope this helps.  I also hope I have not just provided a crazy procrastination tool that will put everyone's current editing projects on hold.  How do you identify your crutch words?  Any secrets or tips of the trade?