I had to share an idea that I've completely stolen from my friend Theresa Stevens, an editor at Red Sage and co-writer of one of my favorite writing blogs, Edittorrent.
It's one of those obvious, light bulb-over-the-head ideas, and every writer probably already does this, but I certainly don't, so if I can suggest it to just one other… Oh, I'll get to the point.
Everyone has words they overuse. My particular favorite is "just." I can use it four times in a paragraph and never notice. It's ugly. But when writing, I let myself write any old way and edit later. On final drafts, I have a long list of my overused words, and I go through entire manuscripts, using the Find function, searching out each usage and deciding whether or not it's necessary at that point (it usually isn't).
Theresa, in this post, talks about software that can help with this, and then, in that light bulb moment, points out that WE ALREADY OWN IT. In Word, use Find and Replace All to turn that danger-word a different, eye-catching color, so when you're reading along, there it is, waiting for you to notice, to make that decision. You can do that with the suffix -ly, if you're trying to snuff out adverbs. You can do it with "just" and "rather" and all the other energy-sucking words that plague you most as a writer.
I love it. This is awesome. I can't wait to try it.
(But while we're thinking about this kind of thing, anyone have anything to say about Story Mill? I like how it flags your overused words FOR you, but I'm not sure about anything else. I'm a big Scrivener fan and use it for plotting, myself, although I compose in Word.)
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