3 Great Ways to Use FIND Before You Submit Your Manuscript

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.— Samuel Johnson

by geralt
by geralt

First, consider these two cautions in using the find and replace feature of your word processor for editing:

  1. Look at each occurrence from the search results to make sure a change works. Automatic replacing can cause problems. For example, consider the paragraph: “He sat next to her. In his grief, he was beside himself.” If you perform a find on next to and replace all with beside, you’ll have: “He sat beside her. In his grief, he was beside himself.”
  1. Replace in moderation. If the change works, do it. Your aim is to reduce repetitions and weak words and phrases, not eradicate certain words.

3 Ways to Use FIND on Your Polished Manuscript

 

  1. Peruse novels or keep an eye out for well-written phrases. When you find better or more concise phrases, search for a key word that’ll lead you to your ho-hum or wordy phrase and replace the ones that need a change.
by Pescador
by Pescador

Example:

If you mention a steering wheel often while characters drive, search on “steering wheel” and try a phrase like the following I found:

Before: He turned the steering wheel and left Main Street…

After: He turned off Main… 

  1. Check counts. If you use an individual word (other than expected high-frequency words, such as the, he, a character’s name) in an 80,000-word novel over 200 times you should work on reducing them. Once, I used up 417 times. I cut the occurrences significantly. Check the words mentioned in 3. below. Using some of these over 25 times may be too often.

To obtain a count:

  • PC = option + f and enter the word
  • Mac = command + f and enter word
  • Scrivener (get a count on every word in your manuscript) =
    • Select desired scenes
    • Click on Editor screen
    • Click on Project, Text Statistics, and Word Frequency
    • Click on desired column to sort

Screenshot 2015-07-14 11.41.59

  1. Search for these words or characters.
  • Your favorite word. In one manuscript, mine was while.
  • Exclamation marks. Use these for shouting in dialogue and thoughts. Your choice of words should show excitement.
  • Ellipses (…)
  • Filler words like uh or um.
  • by HebiFot
    by HebiFot
    Weasel words such as just, very, and some. Here’s an excellent post on words, phrases, and characters to search for: Editing Your Own Writing on Darcy Andries’s website. This is a must read. It covers:
    • Unnecessary and Redundant Words
    • Weak Words:
      • Dull Drab Diluters
      • Filtering
      • Colorless Verbs
      • Modifiers

Before sending your manuscript to a publisher, use FIND and search for these. Click to tweet.

What is the word, phrase, or character you have grossly overused in your manuscript?

Don’t Let Weasel Words Suck the Life From Your Writing

“Nothing marks a skilled writer as much as his ability to write tight.” — Angela Hunt

weasel-470490_1280

Sometimes the words we use in our writing detract from other words in our stories.

Think of the alleged egg-sucking habits of weasels. An egg a weasel has sucked empty will look intact to the casual observer.

by galsio
by galsio

Weasel words suck energy from the victim words next to them. The victim words are there, but weaker.

Weasel words are sometimes the right words in dialogue if they’re consistent with the way characters would speak. Otherwise, if they rob the punch of adjacent words, delete them.

 

Examples of Weasel Words

 

256px-PSM_V54_D810_Weasel Just 

Just works fine when used for showing time. She could tell by his warm coffee mug that he’d just left. If we remove just, it changes the meaning of the sentence. 

Consider I just hate being late. Just robs half the power of hate. Without just, all the emphasis is appropriately on hate

I hate being late.

  256px-PSM_V54_D810_WeaselVery & Rather 

Do degrees of wrong and well help the next two sentences? Disliking her brother was very wrong. He took the news rather well. Are the words wrong and well vague? No. 

Very, sucks out wrong’s decisive nature. Ditto for rather describing well. 

Disliking her brother was wrong. 

He took the news well.

256px-PSM_V54_D810_Weasel Some

She poured some corn into the bowl. Some is unnecessary. We get the image with: She poured corn into the bowl.

  256px-PSM_V54_D810_WeaselImmediately & Suddenly

She slapped his face. He immediately grabbed her arm. If we remove immediately, do we think he did something else before he grabbed her arm? Immediately, powers down the action in grabbed.

She slapped his face. He grabbed her arm. 

Suddenly: After midnight, the doorbell suddenly chimed. Eva froze.

Suddenly tells us nothing new. It doesn’t add fear. The time of night and Eva’s reaction shows us the scariness of the passage. Let chimed retain it’s own powerful sound.

 After midnight, the doorbell chimed. Eva froze.

256px-PSM_V54_D810_Weasel Sure 

Compare: He sure loved her. and He loved her. Sure drains the love out of loved.

256px-PSM_V54_D810_WeaselReally

His sister really deteriorated after Paul left. Deteriorated is already a strong word. Really separates His sister from her problem and takes the emphasis from deterioration.

His sister deteriorated after Paul left.

256px-PSM_V54_D810_Weasel That 

Be careful on this one. That often helps clarity. But many times it adds wordiness. Try rewording to get rid of thats.

She realized that Randy didn’t care that she was ill, and that made it easier to leave him.

Removing unnecessary thats: She realized Randy didn’t care she was ill, and that made it easier to leave him.

Better would be to reword: Randy’s indifference to her illness made leaving him easier.

by clconroy
by clconroy

Weasel words suck the life from other words. Remove them. Click to tweet.

What are other weasel words commonly used?