Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Phrase of the Day (or Big Buts)

Tip of the Day: To find out how many times you use a word in your manuscript, do a Find/Replace for the same word and see how many changes are made. Compare that number to the number of pages in your document. Is your word usage to heavy in your book?

There are some phrases I like, but I use them too much. There are other words I like, but I managed to cut down on their usage by maintaining my conscious awareness of them. "Just," "back," and "really" are examples of some of these overused words in my past, but now I have a new vice.

Can you tell what it is?

BUT!

And not just any "but," but the but that follows a comma. In my 208 page manuscript, I found 155 instances of this phrase! ACK!

The scary thing is how long it took me to discover this crutch. This is the novel that captured the interest of my current agent. I revised it twice with her, and am now revising it again for an editor. And until now, on page 138 of the 208 page ms, I didn't realize how many times I used it. Holy macaroni! I can't believe this book has made it this far.

On the plus side, it shows that voice, character, and plot can take a book far. On the minus side, omg, how come no one told me I had toilet paper sticking out of the back of my pants for so long?

I have returned to page 23 of my ms and am diligently searching out and destroying as many ", but" phrases as humanly possible. The crutch must go!

What are your latest, newly discovered crutches?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

6 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The heart was beating and my character was breathing way too many times for one ms.

The Find/Replace function is a wonderful invention. ;)

Thanks for sharing!

Kate Fall said...

I never notice these unless they're at the beginning of the sentence. I will ruthlessly mark and cut sentences that begin with "And" and "But." I used to not mind them, but after a while, I had seen so many of them I couldn't unsee them. Like how Jon and Kate's latest romances trickle into your consciousness just by going to the supermarket.

I'm really impressed that you figured this out! I crown you sentence structure queen.

Emily Marshall said...

Ha...this is funny. I have to admit "but" is a crutch for me too, but (ha) I don't really mind them that much. I'm wondering if that's one of the phrases that is so ingrained in culture that it's hard to spot (or maybe it's just me).

I like "I's," "smiles," "forwards," and "towards." And "and's!!"

DeenaML said...

Stina -- at least we know your character is a live! :) Mine is always second guessing herself. :)

Working Rachel said...

If you're using XP-or-later MS Word, you can also check a box in the Find/Replace box that says "highlight all occurrences in document." I use that all the time to find my overused words and look at each one to see if it's necessary.

Kate Fall said...

Working Rachel, thanks for the tip! I never knew that.