Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rampant Redundancies in Rewriting

My favorite part of writing a novel is the rewrite, where plot tightens, characters emerge, and interesting stuff happens that I never foresaw.

But that final rewrite, directly ahead of the submission deadline - there's a challenge. That's where I am now with my current project. Reading the manuscript line by line, word for word, all kinds of terrible things pop up. The worst may be overworked words.

Something was 'okay' 87 times, one time more than 'maybe' appeared. There were 399 instances of 'just,' many of which I deleted, but sometimes that just wasn't possible. I also got rid of a bunch of the 162 appearances of 'well', most of them lazy sentence-starting interjections. People were urged to 'come on' 34 times. That could wear out in a hurry.

What really made me twitchy was the fact that 'a' popped up 2462 times; 'and', 2314; 'that', 1149; and 'the', 4118. In a manuscript of 100,000 words, then, those four words comprised ten percent of the verbiage. Makes me want to download a copy of "Moby Dick," do a total word count, then search for each of those four words.

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