A Clouded Manuscript

I divided the first act of Nita into four parts (not chapters, we talked about this, remember?) and then Caryn suggested TagCrowd, and I ran all four parts through that to look at word frequency. That was illuminating.

The original reason I wanted a word frequency list was to see what words I was overusing and the clouds did that for me:

I knew I had a problem with “looked,” but I hadn’t realized I had a “frowned” addiction or “going” (there’s a speech tic for you).  “Think” was a surprise, so I’ll have to a search for that.  I thought that “thought” was not a problem, since it’s the interior version of “said,”  but Krissie is making me look again.  “Dead” is in reference to Nick, and I had a suspicion I was hitting that too hard, or at least repeating the same word too much.  And “really” should probably just go (damn adverbs) except when Nita’s using it in dialogue as sarcasm (“Really?”).  The interesting thing is that most of the problems disappear in the fourth part; that’s Nick’s trip to hell, and then Nita, Nick, and Mort going out to the Nature Preserve to find Forcas.  In other words, once I get the story up and running, the word overuse slims down.

Here’s the comparison of Part 1 before and after the edit:

I lessened but didn’t completely get rid of “looked” and “going,” and keeping some of the “dead” stuff was necessary because of Nick and the shootings, but I did manage to get “frowned,” “really,” and “think” back to insignificant usage.  So progress. 

The other helpful thing here was the repetition of names.  

In theory, Nita’s name should be the largest, then Nick’s, then Chloe/Button, and then Max or Rab.  Nita’s name is the largest until the fourth part, but Nick’s name is larger there because half of that part is in Hell so no Nita.  When I did a cloud on just the Nature Preserve part, Nita’s name was largest again.  Button disappears in Part 4, but again, that’s just Hell and the Nature Preserve and she’s home sleeping for all of that.  Plus Max shows up here finally and occupies the place she’d hold.  The same thing happens to Rab; while he’s a steady supporting character throughout the first three, he’s not in Hell or the Preserve so he disappears in Part 4.  If that really bothered me, I could pretty easily add him or Button to the last part, but there’s no real reason, and I like it that the end of first act zeroes in so strongly on Nita and Nick.  The big surprise was Vinnie; he takes up as much space as Button does in parts one and three.  I need to look at three anyway, it’s bloated, but I can see where Vinnie’s stuff is probably where the ax will fall.  

So that’s where I am with Act One.  Moving on to revising Two now.  I actually think One is ready to beta, which is amazing, but I won’t know until all four are done.  I’ve stared at it for too long now; I can’t see the places where it drags, where readers will start to skim.  It’s the thought that the answer might be “All of it” that keeps me awake nights.

But the clouds have been a help, so thank you very much, Caryn.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

30 thoughts on “A Clouded Manuscript

  1. “where readers will start to skim. It’s the thought that the answer might be “All of it” that keeps me awake nights.”

    Never. In any draft you have ever posted that I have read. Not that you don’t make them better as you go on, but I would NEVER SKIM you. Other people yes, you no. Please sleep of nights.

    11+

  2. Quit worrying and go back to sleeping at night. I’m not sure you’re capable of writing anything boring. I loved the first act and can’t wait to read the rest of it. Even the parts of the first act that you later cut kept my attention through every word and I enjoyed every minute of it. (Forgive me if I’m not very coherent – half my attention is on the demon child masquerading as my new puppy.)

    9+

      1. I have hopes she will eventually grow up to be a dog. Right now, imagine the music from Jaws.

        5+

      1. I’m writing a book on demons. I need pictures of demon puppies and kittens. Post on Working Wednesdays, I’m sure the demons are a lot of work.

        5+

  3. Oops. Forgot to say this is a fascinating new tool for editing. Thank you to Caryn for suggesting it and to you for sharing it.

    6+

  4. I’m asking this in all seriousness, but what do editors do? I’ve heard authors talk about working with their publishers editors. Do they read and make alterations? Because it seems like you are doing so much analyzing and rewriting. What is it that editors are doing?

    3+

    1. I’ll let Jenny explain how other editors fit into her process, but just to say (speaking as an editor) that it’s a zillion times better if an author edits her own work. While another eye can be really helpful (I hope), no one else speaks the author’s language or shares their vision.

      8+

    2. As an author, let me just say that editors are worth their price in rubies. (Or pearls, or whatever you prefer. Authors do edit their own work, usually multiple times. But a different pair of eyes is invaluable, and professional eyes (as opposed to gifted friends or family) are even more necessary.

      My work goes through me, my agent, various first readers, and my editor still finds lots of things I’ve missed. The author’s job is to get a manuscript as good as possible. The editor makes it better.

      7+

    3. I wrote a HUGE reply to this, realized it was too long for a comment, and set it up to post on Friday as a Questionable.

      Here’s the short answer from the introduction:
      “The simplest answer to your question is that it’s really rude to give any kind of editor a text you know isn’t right because it means you’re shoving off work that you can do and leaving it to her to fix things in the way she thinks best, which is possibly not the way you wanted.  If it’s broken, fix it before it gets to her.  I always know my editors (Jen and the copy editor) will find mistakes I can’t see, so I need to make sure the manuscript is as perfect as I can get it, so they can see the text clearly enough to make it better. If I slow them down with a lot of stuff I can fix, I’m hurting their ability to edit. That’s just dumb. If you work with professionals, you should be professional.”

      But I went into a lot more detail. See Friday’s Argh for detail.

      7+

  5. Oh ho! I’ve often wondered how I can find overused words (besides exasperated beta readers saying, “Um, you’ve used ‘howl’ quite a bit here.” This is a trick I can use!

    Also, I love the way that the character names also show where the writer is concentrating the action. I just read something one of the Ladies put up about word sensitivity — happy words at the beginning, more negative words towards the middle/climax, and then a temporary rise in happy words at the gentle happy ending . . . . That’s a different way to analyze; word clouds probably wouldn’t be enough because we try to avoid using the same word, and wind up with synonyms.

    I find it Quite Interesting that you didn’t circle “turned”. But with your stories, there is a lot of transformation and twisting, so it makes sense it would be a fairly prominent verb. I have never felt you overuse it at all. (-: Or thinking, either, for that matter.

    1+

  6. A BBC video popped up on my FB feed re a dachshund cafe. It might have been in Surrey? Or Nottingham? Forgot to copy the link, but did make a mental note to mention in here.

    (PS word clouds fascinating!)

    1+

  7. I read a book recently (by an author mentioned here, but I’ve forgotten who because it just didn’t grab me) where everyone Grinned, constantly. They never smiled. Surely they didn’t grin on every page, but it began to seem like it. The word cloud would have been very useful there.

    1+

Comments are closed.