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.