I talked once before about word territory. This is where you use the same word(s) so much that someone reading your story becomes distracted because the word(s) stand out. A friend of mine kept using ‘the two women’ in his WIP, so much so that I started marking it everywhere I saw it and tallied them all in the end. I did this to illustrate how often he used the phrase so he’d change it up. I also did this because we, as writers, can become blind to the little things we do, which is why we join critique groups and have beta readers and all of that in the first place – to catch the stuff we missed so we can go back and make it better.
A couple nights ago, I woke up from a dead sleep and realized I’d fallen into the trap, I’d done the same GD thing and used a phrase, just three little words, over and over in the Epic Fantasy I’m working on. The same EF that I’m about to start submitting to the CSFWG, my critique group, on Saturday. To get back to sleep, I told myself that it wasn’t that bad, I was probably just overreacting. Still, it woke me up. That can’t be good.
I did go back to sleep. When I woke up ‘for real’, I had some stuff to do before I could sit down and really take a look at it. The thing about Text Statistics, a feature in Scrivener, is that, while it does tell you how often you use a word, it doesn’t look at combinations of words, which is where I had my problem.
See, it all comes down to my desire not to use a characters name until another character met him. In this way, in my head, I was being clever and mysterious (aka stupid). What I didn’t realize was that I was also being repetitive. Very repetitive. 109 times.
I spent the next couple of hours not only searching out this phrase, but changing things around and coming up with something new. Such a pain, but necessary not only for submitting to my critique group, but for the general good of my manuscript. Had I submitted the piece as is, the group would certainly have called me out on it (and will probably find other things I’m not even seeing right now), but I kinda like that I found it first and fixed it.
Well, my subconscious mind did anyway.