Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For writers - Slaying Overused Words

Today's tip comes from my recent harrowing experience of combing through my WIP to catch my (many) overused words, adverbs, and passive verbs. I'm afraid I don't know who to credit for the original idea--it's something I jotted down in a notebook long ago, but this is the first time I put it to use.

By the time I'm working on a second (or third) draft, I find it hard to catch overused words because it's like my brain skips right over them, so here's a trick to highlight the culprits so that I don't miss them. I use Word for Mac, so this might work a little bit differently with other programs, but here's how it works for me:

In my open manuscript, I click on the formatting palette and choose a color for highlighting. (If you're going to highlight several words/adverbs/etc. in your ms., choose a different color for each.)

Now, I click on 'edit' from my task bar along the top of the ms and scroll down to select the 'replace' option. With the search/replace box open, I enter a word in the search line - for example, just, which I overuse terribly. I reenter the word in the replace line. Next, I click the little boxed arrow icon in the lower left hand corner to expand my options. I choose 'format' and then 'highlight', then click 'replace all.' Word will highlight all my justs so that they'll stand out as I give it another read though.

I repeat this with a different color for ly, to catch my overused adverbs, and again with another color to highlight any other word I need to catch.

Amazing how seeing them all in their technicolor glory helps me slay the overused monsters.

This week's link roundup:

Using POV to make characters come alive (WOW)

Creating active characters in YA (Guide to Literary Agents)

DWD posts on voice: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

5 reasons to write in 1st person (ingrid's notes)

6 limitations of 1st person (ingrid's notes)

3rd person style in 1st person (Kidlit)

Building Character Arc (FictionGroupie) Gotta have a motto

Using dialog to avoid infodumps (wordplay)

Story Structure vs. Voice (Laura Pauling)

The art of chapter breaks (bloodred pencil)

Using White Space (write it sideways)

Mastering backstory (Corey's Notebook) learning from Louis Sacher

3 Strategies for saying The End (beyond the margins)

The 100 Rejections Rule for querying authors (MJ Beuhrlen)

Writers: The secret at the core of competency (Top Ten Tuesdays) Amateur vs. Professional

What makes a book great? (Personal Demons)

What is great writing? (the other side of the story)

13 writing tips from the pros (Buffy's write zone)

10 tips to bust writer's block (publetariat)

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing fiction (Pimp my novel)

Mapping it out (Kate Hart) YA sales in the past year

Motivations and rewards for writers (genreality)

Finding story ideas everywhere (genreality)

Best and Worst Editor Advice (beyond the margins) Part two

Now go. Write!