A Tool for Writers


During my critique group that meet’s every other Thursday, one of our recurring problems has been repetitive words. The author doesn’t realize it, but there were somehow seven “smiles” or twelve uses of the word “anger” in a six page section. While that is a benefit by having other people become first time readers to catch some mistakes, edits still need to happen and critique groups can only edit so many pages per session. I have been a part of my group for nearly 7 months now and we just crossed the halfway point on my first pass through the book. Despite the fact that there are only four of us, there are simply only so many pages you can critique each week.
I actually found this tool while I was substitute teaching and it works so well for writers. Wordle.net allows you to copy and paste text. It reads your text and creates the word jumble you see above you. In this case, it is over a chapter I edited today. I made this just before starting to see if there were any words in there that didn’t seem to fit. The largest blurbs are character names, which is a good thing. It shows that I am involving a lot of the characters that are pivotal to this chapter. I see the word “metal” in there which is good because that is a key component to the atmosphere being in a submerged station in the Pacific Ocean. I saw tons of metal, cables, and valves onboard the USS Torsk when I toured it, so that’s a good thing. “Brother” is in there, which is vital since John and David are brothers in the narrative and their relationship gets a big test in this chapter.
And then there were the ones that concerned me. Why “just” and “know” are two of the prominent words in this chapter are beyond me. There isn’t much of a mystery behind this chapter as it deals with character conflict, so that many instances of “know” surely isn’t needed. “Just” provides absolutely nothing to the story as I don’t recall ever using it in the fair minded or moral context. It was probably used as an adverb. They include the ability to see your word counts and I saw that “just” was used 13 times in a 9 page chapter.
I have found that Wordle, or another word count imaging program, is an amazing tool to use to find those problematic words that have no context within the story or are too repetitive. Just make sure you don’t go too far with the thesaurus and replace your NUMBER cases of the word “angry” with “irate, vexed, indignant, irked, beside oneself, choleric, apoplectic, doing a slow burn, enraged, and teed off.” Sometimes a key word or two will act as a red flag to a publisher or agent, causing them to say, “Well, someone likes to use their thesaurus.”

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