After my second (or third, I forget) edit of Virtually Yours Forever, I decided to run my novel through Smart Edit.
Smart Edit, for those who don’t know, is writing software that takes your words (yes, even novel length) and analyzes your word usage. In just a few short minutes, all of the glaring errors you thought you had avoided slap you upside the head. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives, phrases, what I call “dumb” words (really, like, the to-be words), redundancies, and cliches. It counts your exclamation points, apostrophes, and hyphens.
Smart Edit was the best $57 I ever spent.
I ran my final draft of Finding Cadence through it, and managed to eliminate 10K words. This book’s first draft started at 175K, whittled down to 130K (after I found I had used the word “family” 900+ times and “perfect” 700+ times – completely unnecessary), and finally pared to the 120K, which is still perhaps too long, but at that point I couldn’t take anything else out without compromising my story.
With the current pass at my Virtual Mommies, I want to tighten up what words I have in order to adequately express my parallel story line. I’m only on Draft A of the inserted story, so I have a way to go before completion. But at 92K, I’ll safely stay on the low side of 100K.
I’ve often said that I write how I speak. This talent might make for interesting dialogue, but the spoken word is full of redundancies. Yes, I visibly cringe when I see what Smart Edit decides to spit back at me. I’ve only been writing novels for a few years, but I take this craft very seriously. I read and house an impressive library of writing reference material. “You’d think you’d learn?” I say to myself.
I’m learning, but at a snail’s pace (yes, a cliche). And I’m OLD, meaning I can forget things now with amazing speed. (I long for those days when I could hear a song on the radio twice and remember the words.)
I’m not one of those writers who believe in the non-usage of adjectives and adverbs. I love descriptors, but you don’t want to read the same word over and over. I strive to limit my descriptor usage to less than five times in 100K.
It’s the same with phrase redundancies – unless the phrase is a signature speech pattern. For example, Janna always says “Oh, my Lady GaGa” because she’s Jewish and never says the word “God.” Or how I have Ashe signing off on email either “Virtually yours forever” or “Peace out.” But if Smart Edit shows 37 “you have tos,” I know I must get in there and change at least 30 of them to something else.
There is an upside to having all of your errors staring you in your face. You won’t find 900-anythings in my manuscripts anymore, which means I must be learning from my mistakes.