Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Throw away your crutches!

Every writer has crutch words - words we rely on or are our go-to words. Words we over-use. Words we don't need at all.

Having finished the structural edit, the next stage for me is to tighten up all the writing. I know the foundations of the book are right. Now I need to make the building as good as possible. Once that's sorted, I can fine-tune and add the finishing touches that (hopefully) make it sparkle.

I keep a running list of the words I over-use. Some of them I know I over-use because I've seen them for myself. Some of them have been pointed out to me by my editors. Another way of finding them is doing a word-frequency count. I do this via Scrivener - it gives me a list of all the words used in the book and how often they appear. Obviously "the", "a", "and" and so on come up hundreds of times, but it's in the block after that, that I need to check - words that shouldn't be as common as they are in the book. Some of my worst offenders are "nodded" and "looked", but the list is long. 😐

In my first pass through, while I'm still concentrating on the structure, I do try and flag them up (and kill them off wherever possible). This time I went a step further...

Having exported the manuscript from Scrivener to Word, I then did a Find and Replace on all my over-used or weak words, changing them so that they were all highlighted in yellow.

Oh, dear god. Despite thinking I'd already killed off quite a lot of nodding and looking, I saw that I hadn't. At all. I have a list of 35 words that I did the search and replace on and the effect was startling. Few pages of the manuscript emerged without any yellow markings. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that this is still nowhere near a final draft and that it's allowed to be pretty ropey at this stage. You don't judge a piece of fine porcelain on its unfired, undecorated form, after all.

So, now for the hard work - rolling up my sleeves and attacking the manuscript to make it sing (and to murder all these crutch words!).


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