Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writing Lesson of the Day: Repeat Words

As you know, I'm in the middle of revisions for my YA Urban Fantasy. This means I'm in the middle of finding everything that could possibly be wrong with my writing. Sounds fun, huh? So I decided to make this into a teaching moment for anyone who may be reading, and for myself to reread next time I start a writing project.

Lesson Number 1: Don't use the same words over and over again.

We all have our pet words. In fact, we might develop new pet words to cover the old pet words we got tired of seeing in our work. So instead of writing, "He comes to the door," I might write, "He flies to the door." You know, make it more interesting, right? Well it gets old really fast, I found out. Last night I revised 80-ish pages just looking to change from past tense to present tense, and I found at least a dozen occurrences of the word, 'flies.' *shakes head at self*

There were other offenders, too. So I made a list. If you're revising, you might like to do this, too. I keep a sheet of paper in front of me on the computer desk and every time I see a familiar word, I write it down. Here's my list just from last night:


I'm sure I missed some, too. But that's why I take several passes over my manuscript before I call it done. I'm excited to see how my critique partners tear it up when I send them the full, too. My CPs are awesome at spotting my repeat words.

You can see how some of the above words are my attempts to enliven the narrative. In the end, I'm still reusing the same words, even if they're as exciting as 'whips!' If you have this problem, I can't recommend highly enough the thesaurus of all thesauri: The Bookshelf Muse!

Another great tool is Wordle. You input text from your manuscript and it shows in HUGE LETTERS the words you use most frequently, as shown above.

Now move on to Lesson Number 2!


  1. I LOVE Wordle. All those favorite words just creep up on me, and it's so much easier to find them with a tool like this (and great crit partners).

  2. Yes! Yay for great crit partners! And Wordle always surprises me with a word I didn't expect, like 'home' or something random. If it's the topic of the scene, I'm not so worried about it being big, but otherwise, Wordle is a lifesaver for pointing out the repetitious.


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