When I first started writing, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I use certain words as a crutch. All writers do this to a degree – we have a certain “style” of writing, a way we paint scenes or arrange words, a character trait or flaw that we give our protagonists or a repetitive theme (like VC Andrews and incest….wince). It’s not always a bad thing, until there’s too much of it.
Case in point: when I went back to edit my first book, I started noticing that I used the phrase “a bit” a whole awful lot. I mean, an AWFUL awful lot. She wasn’t just scared, she was “a bit scared.” He wasn’t just wary, he was “a bit wary.” It was all over the place! I finally decided (since I use Word when I write) to use the “find” feature and search out the phrase. In the first six chapters alone, I used the phrase “a bit” fourteen times! Ugh.
Then I started noticing the phrase “even as.” I did a search on that one and it was….yep! Even worse! She held his eyes boldly even as her heart pounded in her chest. His fingers trailed down her arm even as his lips moved to her neck. Auuuuuuuuuugggggggghhh!!
Apparently, my characters can’t just take action without some kind of caveat. How stupid is that?
So the point of revealing my embarrassing writer flaw is that word search is your friend. I’ve also heard of people generating a word cloud to find common, repetitive words and phrases.
With these tools, you, too, could be searching for a bit even as you try to refine your craft!