Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Her heart did what?

When I was editing ‘Fragrance of Violets’, I ran a ‘find’ on the times I used the word ‘heart’ and looked at all the verbs which followed. These included:
jerked, thundered, hammered, ached, missed a beat, contracted, pounded, beat faster, sank (and sank lower), leapt, jumped, jolted, thudded, thumped, dropped, quickened, fluttered and raced.
Before my poor heroine had a massive heart attack, I went to her rescue and changed a lot of these to a different reaction.

I knew already that ‘heart’ was one word I used too much, and I knew of others e.g. then, just, still, glance(d) and (a)round

I’ve recently discovered which creates a word diagram, showing in larger letters the words you’ve used most in a chapter. Inevitably, the names of the characters appear in the largest letters, but I’ve been shocked to discover how many other words I over-use i.e. words I didn’t realise I over-used – ‘but’ being the main offender in the most recent chapter of my WIP.
Lesser used words appear in smaller type – but even the middle-sized ones can show anything between 15 and 40+(!) uses of that word in a chapter.

I shall run every chapter through wordle in future. I’ve realised that the effort to avoid my over-used words is a good exercise in finding alternative ways of saying things and, hopefully, will result in a better writing style.


  1. Hi,

    LOL: Love it! The lengths some people will go to in order to get a French polished (posh) finish.

    You can add heart faltered,
    heart dived.

    Haven't chewed on a Roget's Thesaurus for some time. I hate it when people drop "big words" in run-of-the-mill category romance novels implying they're a cut above, which is a bit like jumped-ups' whom name-drop to impress. ;)


  2. I'm guilty of Thesaurus abuse, but not to be snooty. Honest! I search for words that convey what I'm trying to say, that succinctly deliver the mental image or emotional punch I'm after.
    I spend too much time doing this in the writing phase, and need to hold off internal debate until the editing. I can't access Wordle, and will look into AutoCrit.

  3. Glanced - yip that's one of mine and I have that lass's heart going clipperty clop.
    Doesn't it take a long time with that check programme? I looked at it and it seemed as if you had to do a page at a time.

  4. I copy and paste a whole chapter into Wordle; the auto-crit programme will only take 500 words at a time (on the free version).
    Wordle only takes about 20 seconds (on my computer) to produce the word pattern of a 3,600 word chapter.

  5. I agree about the use of a thesaurus, Ana - not to be a cut above anyone else, but to search out the word I need to convey an image or emotion. The English language is so rich in synonyms which can have different shades of meaning and I love the moment when I realise I've found exactly the word I was looking for.

  6. I use the thesaurus mainly to find a different way to say something, not to necessarily find a fancier word.

    I can't wait to try Wordle! I'm guessing my big repeaters are going to be 'then', 'he', 'she' ( do you avoid those?!), 'heart', and 'was'.

  7. When you use Wordle, you can click on Language at the top and it gives you the option (right down at the bottom of the drop-down list) of showing actual word counts. That's when shock sets in at how many times you've actually used a word. I don't think 'he' and 'she' can count as over-used words, or their names either (since these have to be used) or the things like 'the' and 'and'. It's the words like 'but' and 'then' and also, in my case 'as' which I have to watch out for!