Saturday, August 15, 2015

After the read-through

Well, I'd planned to do a quick read-through, just marking things that really jumped out, and overall impressions, all as if I were a reader new to the story.

However, I found myself noticing things (inconsistent with parts later on) or remembering things (things I forgot to include in the draft altogether) that a new reader wouldn't realize until much later, possibly not even until the end. But I wanted to mark them anyway, while I was noticing/remembering. Then I started circling things like -ly and certain constructions using as or -ing, and underlining words that kept popping up everywhere. Seriously, my characters were forever smiling, or laughing, or reaching, or walking toward someone. I mean, does a person really need to reach and pick up a bowl, when she can simply pick up the bowl?

So the read-through took longer than I thought. But it was still the easiest thing so far. It didn't require thinking or creativity, since I wasn't writing or rewriting anything. All it took was noticing.

Here are some counts from my searches for overused words (or words to describe overused emotions):

  • smil- (smile, smiled, smiling, etc.): 210
  • frown-: 20
  • laugh-: 80
  • nod-: 97
  • grunt-: 17
  • -ly: 1441
  • -ing: 4335 (an admittedly unfair search, as this includes sing, thing, bring, etc. when the way I overused it was "doing this, she did that" when the person isn't technically doing the two things at the same time)
  • as (mostly "as she did that, she did this"): 819
  • while (see "as" above): 117
  • was-: 1679
  • were-: 503
  • crouch-: 8
  • huddl-: 5
  • "couldn't argue with that": 3
  • "she could" + "Ket could": 246 + 25 = 271*
  • wondered: 47
  • thought (excluding "thoughts"): 140
  • supposed + found + discovered: 28 + 117 + 3 = 148
  • saw: 84
  • heard: 83
  • felt: 135
  • reach-: 105**
  • turn-: 290**
  • look-: 447**
  • seemed: 70
  • as if + as though: 17 + 22 = 39
  • inside + outside: 85 + 64 = 149
  • came: 164
  • approach-: 22
  • enter-: 44
  • return-: 59
  • head: 161^
  • chest: 47^
  • shoulders: 52^
  • brow: 58
  • then: 490 (also unfair, since sometimes it's a time marker or a conclusion marker, but I used it way too many times as a sequencial marker in a list of actions - she did this, that, and then something else. It's unnecessry in these sentences.)
  • almost: 61^^
  • a bit + a little: 25 + 38 = 63^^
  • heart + pulse: 84 + 13 = 97
  • tear- + cry- + crie-: 51 + 29 + 17 = 97
  • kneel + knelt: 9 + 20 = 29

*Could see, could hear, could tell, instead of saw, heard, knew - or better yet, more active verbs (instead of "she could feel the force of water flowing downward onto her body," just say "water flowed downward onto her body.")

**Seriously, why reach and touch something if you can just "touch" it? They should only "reach" if they end up failing to touch/grab/pick up the thing. And why turn to look at something, when you can just "look"? Or skip the looking and get to the action!

^Not bad words to use in and of themselves. Just bad the way I used them: Nodded her head, her heart pounded in her chest, she swung her pack onto her shoulders, off her shoulders, shoulders drooped/relaxed/etc. What other thing could a person nod, and where else can a heart pound?

^^I've heard these are weak words. Why say someone's almost jealous? Either she's jealous or she isn't. Anyway, in my uses of them, it's because I was being nitpicky and tedious about minute actions and thoughts.

Many of these words are perfectly decent words to use. Nothing wrong with entering or shoulders or laughing. But they're all words that stood out to me because of the number of times I used them, often in the same way each time.

As I said, that was the easy part. Now I get to address all the issues I found - inconsistencies, details that no longer match the world I created, gaps, redundancy, characters being too weepy or annoying or confusing. At least removing all the turned-tos and looked-ats and in-her-chests will be an easy, quick chunk of the word count I need to pare down, and it'll feel like I'm making progress without actually having to do much work.

By the way, the quilt you see in the picture in my last post? It now has an ink stain I'm trying to remove. I bought some colored pens specifically because I liked the way the wrote smoothly (liquid ink), and apparently one rolled off my notebook and lay point down on my quilt during my 25-minute Skype call today. Oops!

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