04 September, 2005

Words you reach for (too often...)

Holly MacDowell has put up the following list on her blog.

She asks, 'How many times in your approx 100K-word manuscript do you use the following words?'

1. eyes*
2. softly
3. gaze*
4. stood
5. walk
6. just***
7. carefully*
8. nod
9. raise
10. glance**
11. suddenly
12. dark**
13. sigh

Holly reckons, '...the easiest way to count is to move your 100K words into a fresh doc, then do a replace of each of the words you're counting, and see how many replacements were made for each.'

I haven't done this yet, but I know I'm a sinner with some of these words (asterisks indicate how badly). And I'm putting this here so that I'll remember to go back and check when I finish. I would add to this list:

14. 'look' and all its variants (trying to avoid which, of course, you get a lot of eyes, gazes and glances sneaking in) - I used 'look', 'looking' etc, so many times in the first draft of Little Peach that my editor started underlining them. The pages were speckled with lookings!
15. 'great' and its substitutes, 'vast' and 'huge'
16. 'little', both for size and quantity

17. 'slight' and 'slightly'
18. 'face'


Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

Shouldn't "smile" be on that list? Or is that just me . . .

If you're using Word (ack, how I hates it) you can do a find on the particular word, but hit the "highlight all items found" button. It'll tell you exactly how many of the culprits you got.

"Just" appears 226 in the most recent version of Magic Lessons. Oh oh. I'm going over the proofs right now, time for yet more deleting.

Thanks for the reminder!

05 September, 2005 00:44  
Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

Regarding the use of "eye"/"eyes": Lynn, from the Paperback Writer weblog had the following comment on Stuart MacBribe's weblog Halfhead: "Interesting side stat: you used an average of one eye reference every 2.8 pages in Cold Granite; not bad at all, Stuart. Most writers can't resist them for more than a page and a half."

So that's, what?, one "eye" every 600 words, or about 160 average per 100k manuscript.

Is this a genre thing? "Cold Granite" has been described as "tartan noir" so maybe it's more about blood and guts than eyes and heads.

By the way, the original comment from Lynn came about as Stuart railed against someone referring to a description that he was accused of using in CG, but hadn't. The description: "urine-coloured eyes". Now there's something to conjure with.

06 September, 2005 11:38  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

Justine: I didn't think I had a problem with smile, mine being such a glum book, but now I'm noticing every glimmer of a smile.

I like your 'eyes' story, Perry. I tell you, I'm tying myself in knots now, every time one of these beggars threatens. I'm scared to get to the end and actually run the check.

OK, I gathered my courage and checked for eyes. 81 in 33800 words, 1 every 417 words - yep, every page and a half or so. Geez, and I thought I was being so good.

06 September, 2005 21:16  
Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

"Slight" and variations turns out not to be a problem: 8 in 65 thou words. But "so" on the other hand: 292. Oh my. One every 223 words . . .

I have 129 eyes, which doesn't seem that egregious given that it's only I every 504 words. And I mean to say, people, they're the windows to our bloody souls! Very necessary.

Turns out that counting words is much easier than writing 'em.

08 September, 2005 12:57  

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