Fiction, My Books, Novel, Writing

One step closer to Illusion

Last night, I delivered An Illusion of Trust to my betas. Yay! I can definitely say this book is in better shape going to beta than The Brevity of Roses was, so I don’t think I’ll have too much more work ahead of me. While I wait for their feedback, I’ll work on other book-related things.

I guess it’s time to compose my first edition of Linda’s Letter, my newsletter. Maybe I’ll even include the first chapter as a teaser. And I should probably start an ARC sign-up sheet. Of course the cover design is on my mind a lot. I think I’ve found the perfect cover image … at least I hope so. Sending a mondo indecisive person like me to a stock photo site is akin to torture.

The image above is a Wordle created from the 150 most used words in An Illusion of Trust. You can see how important Jalal is to Renee. By default, Wordle doesn’t count common words, so “I” is the word that would appear even larger than Jalal because this novel is written in first person. Tea was a word that showed up in the Wordle for Brevity, which made sense with Jalal as the main character, but in this one it’s the word wine that shows up. And no, Renee’s problem is not that she’s become alcoholic.

Though I have more work to do for this book, I’ve started looking beyond it to the next. I have three possibilities for my next project. Well … four, actually, if I want to take a stab at the short story collection again. I give them each a few minutes thought from time to time, as I wait for one to shout louder than the others.

However, November waits in the wings. No, I’m not going to try to write my next novel in 30 days. We observe NaHoCleMo around here. And believe me, after more than a year of steady work on An Illusion of Trust, I should have no trouble reaching my cleaning goal. More on that later.

Believe it or not, my next post will not be all about me. I’ve been reading a bit and want to talk about some writer friends. So, stay tuned. Have a great weekend.

Advice, Craft, Editing, Fiction, Revision, Tips, Words, Writing

Words you don’t need

Since I finished a round of editing two days ago, I’m going to mention something I looked for in the final polish—overused words. Eliminating unnecessary words strengthens your writing. I’ll mention the two main ones I had a problem with. They may or may not be a problem in your writing.

I expect you all know about Wordle, which I’ve blogged about before here and here. It’s a great tool to spot problem words. I copy and paste my whole novel into Wordle to identify the most frequently used words. If I see a word larger than I expect, then I know I need to eliminate as many instances of it as I can.

My after editing Wordle. Click to enlarge.

In my case, one word that loomed large was JUST. Often the word is redundant as in this case where the word started is sufficient:

“Meredith laid the clothes destined for the cleaners on the passenger seat, but just as she started to back her car out of the garage, another car drove in through the gate.”

Sometimes you can replace JUST with another word, such as only. But sometimes I like its precision as in:

“How had she given this man such power over her that with just a look, or a word, he broke through all her defenses?”

Of course, only would have worked in that sentence, but I prefer the sound of just. So use your judgment. By using Word’s find feature, I reduced my JUST count by more than fifty uses.

(Tip: if you enter the search word in Find and then click Reading Highlight > Highlight All, you can see your usage count.)

Another word to watch out for is THAT. I thought I had broken myself of the habit, but a check revealed I had still misused it too often. I eliminated as many as practical, which again was more than fifty. It’s a perfectly good word, and one that will be used correctly more often than not, but it has a way of sneaking in where it’s not needed. If you’re not aware how it slips in needlessly, here’s an example:

“Are you telling me that you never noticed that your book is prominently displayed in the gift shops here—local celebrity, and all that?”

I removed two instances of THAT without changing the meaning at all. But sometimes removing the word can confuse or change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

“Why had she let him skip years of his life without telling her anything that happened during them?”

If you deleted THAT in this sentence, it would mean she would be satisfied if he had given a vague answer such as, “Yeah, something happened.” However, what I wanted to convey is her dismay he hadn’t told her at least one thing.

Again, use your judgment. Most of the time you’ll find THAT is used correctly.

(Tip: In my writing, I’ve never found an unnecessary THAT at the beginning of a sentence, so you might try your search using lowercase spelling and selecting Match Case to cut down on the number of uses you need to check.)

A final word: I often make a distinction between dialogue and narrative when I edit. Dialogue should sound natural, and since we probably all use too many THATs and JUSTs in our casual speech, I am more lenient in their use in written dialogue.

Your turn: Try Wordle on a sample of your writing. Did you find any unexpected prominent words? It looks like I need to investigate my usage of BACK!?

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Fiction, Novel, Words, Writing

Words I didn’t expect!

novelwordleI’ve used Wordle on this blog before, but seeing it on Nathan Bransford’s blog yesterday reminded me that I wanted to try it again when I finished my novel. So, I pasted my whole novel in Wordle. (First I removed all the chapter headings, so the word Chapter wouldn’t show up as one of my oft used words, though if you’re less a perfectionist than I am, you could just ignore that.)

Why, you ask, did I create a Wordle out of my novel? I wanted to check for overused words. If you’ve never done this you may not know that the words used most show up largest. Naturally, my main characters’ names are used the most, no cause for concern, but look at the next largest.

Back, just, now, know, one … should they be used that often? Back?! Really? This demands investigation!

What would your novel’s Wordle reveal?

Fiction, Novel, Words, Writing

Word clouds

For once, I won’t be sitting in front of this computer screen most of the day, so I’m going to give you a little something to play with while I’m gone.

Do you ever worry that you overuse certain words in your writing? Well, on Twitter this morning I saw a link to this cool little online program called Wordle. Even better, it’s free to use. LFMYou can paste text and Wordle will create a “word cloud” and the frequency of use determines the size of the word. For example, paste a chapter of your work in the Wordle, create the cloud, and if you use the word seem 72 times in the chapter and love 12 times, when your cloud appears, seem will be in much larger font than love in the cloud. Have fun and maybe improve your writing, too! Go to the Wordle site.