I noticed a 'word cloud', a graphic illustration of your most frequently used words, on my very talented writer friend’s blog, thanks Sandie, http://sandiezand.blogspot.com and couldn’t resist having a play around myself. First, I looked at my blog and the result was interesting. I loved the layout and was pleased that writing related words achieved greatest prominence - or should I say, I was relieved that writing achieved any prominence at all; I do aim to talk about writing related subjects here, even if I have been known to get a little distracted.
But I winced when I saw an entry which would have had my English teacher racing for her red pen. ‘Get,’ had crept in at the sidelines. I quickly deleted it but then decided that this wasn’t really in the spirit of things so put my scissors away before I got to ‘however’.
This took me to my ‘completed’ novel, Glass Houses. Did I dare to do the word cloud for that? I have already edited it so many times and checked for recurrences of the words on Jackie’s Danger List, pinned to my pc. These are words I know would offend the eye in their quantity if left unchecked, such as, ‘just’, ‘finally’, ‘now’ and ‘look’, plus my very worst offender, ‘really’. But I wondered if the word cloud would suggest some others, such as ‘but’ (already causing me a little uneasiness in this post.) From a twenty page snapshot, the result was that, ‘get’ was a little too large for comfort, ‘really’ was still hanging around and I couldn’t understand why ‘back’ was as frequently used as some character names. ‘Like’ also still taunted me, even though I’ve spent hours analysing each and every occurrence of ‘like’ in the book and feel I’ve deleted or changed them wherever humanly possible.
I wasn’t surprised that the main characters were large but it took me to a question I ask myself constantly: do I use the character names too often when they could be substituted for a pronoun? Getting the balance right on this is tricky, particularly with two characters of the same sex in one scene – too many ‘she’ and you’re left with a character with four hands able to perform fascinating contortion, together with instant variations in hair length with two interchanging colours. You see my difficulty?
I looked at my current work-in-process, Misguidance. Would the characters’ names be as large and would there be a higher incidence of ‘bad’ words as I haven’t even thought about editing this yet?
Again, the main characters are unsurprisingly large but ‘Sarah’ is huge so I need to keep a check on my over-naming tendencies. ‘like’ has slipped itself in again and we have ‘back’ rearing its ugly head. ‘Back’ troubles me the most, it wasn’t a word I was aware I used plentifully at all.
So, thanks to Sandie, and a five minute diversion, I’m trawling through Glass Houses again and writing a check-list for Misguidance. Thankfully, I enjoy editing and love finding something new to look at because that nugget might just be the element which changes a potential publisher’s ‘no’ to a ‘yes’.
What are your most oft used words and phrases? If you write, have a go yourself at: http://www.wordle.net Just copy and paste your text and then share the results with us, simple. Thanks for reading!