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Writing Mistakes: Repeated Words/Phrases

This is a problem I didn’t know I had until I got my latest book back from a particularly awesome beta reader. Her note went along these lines: "Great story, but I can't help but notice that you repeat yourself a number of times throughout the book. Makes it kind of hard to read." Ouch! Every writer has a "crutch" word that they use all the time. Hillary Clinton way overuses "eager", Jack Kerouac used "sad" too many times in On the Road, and Jennifer Egan used "abraded" just a bit too noticeably in Look at Me. There were a few words I leaned on a bit too much in the first draft of my new book, The Last Bucelarii: Blade of the Destroyer Felt. I used this one not only for emotions (felt sorrow), but also for sensation (felt something cold and wet). It's a good word when used in moderation, but I realized it could be removed. For example, instead of "he felt a rough hand grab him", it is now "A rough hand grabbed him". Simpler, more concise, but it leaves "felt" free for when the character really does FEEL something. Scream. The demonic blade the Hunter carries talks to him, and it tends to "scream" when it senses its victim is near. But when other people are screaming in pain, the word "scream" stands out like a sore thumb. I have to go through it and look for all the uses of the word to see if I can change it to "crying", "shouting", etc.
  1. When his blade isn't talking to him, it sort of pounds in the back of his mind like a headache. I could probably go over the book right now and find at least 100 uses of the word "pound", and most of them would be referring to this sensation. I think I'll have to revert to using words like "throb", "pulse", "chatter", and others to avoid overusing this one.
It's important to find the words that you use too much, or even the phrases that are overused. The characters in this book tend to curse very colorfully, using expressions like "Watcher's balls" and "Keeper's taint". While these curses can be funny, they can often seem out of place. Simpler is often better. How can you tell if you're overusing a word? Well, if you don't have AMAZING beta readers like I do, here's a tool to help you:

Spork Forge

Basically, you can copy and paste your text into the box, and it will tell you how many times you used certain words and phrases you used a lot. A wonderful tool to help you make sure you're not overusing or repeating the same words too many times!