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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hot Words by Camy Tang


Hey gang! This is Camy Tang, and I’m an author with Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. I’m going to be presenting a month-long online course on Critiquing (yourself and others) and as a teaser, today I want to talk about Hot Words.

What are Hot Words? They’re words you use ad nauseum in your writing. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re using Hot Words until someone points out to us that we’ve used the word “butt” about twelve times in one chapter (after all, the hero’s behind is quite magnificent), or we miraculously notice we described the heroine’s hair as “tawny” pretty much every time she touches her head, which adds up to about twenty times in the first half of the book alone.

This is the bane of my self-editing existence. Seriously. No matter how many times I have gone through revising a manuscript and removing my hot words, they still pop up in the next manuscript. I just can’t seem to make my brain stop using these words.

So, to try to at least mop up after myself, I made a list. My hot words are:

just

really

smile

smiled

lips

look

looked

gaze

gazed

After I finish a manuscript, I immediately to a “Find” in my word processing program (I use Open Office) for my hot words and try to obliterate as many as I find. Because I always end up keeping a few hot words, if I’m as ruthless as I can be in eliminating as many of them as I can, then I’ll be reasonably sure that my prose won’t be too redundant. And repetitive writing is just annoying to a reader. And an editor.

A great program is Autocrit.com, which has a free Word Analysis wizard that will allow you to copy and paste a certain number of words into the field and it will give you a report of overused words and repeated phrases. The paid subscription service allows you to copy and paste more words and get more in-depth analyses.

So how about you? What are your hot words? Go forth to seek and destroy them!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her chick lit Sushi series (Sushi for One?, Only Uni, and Single Sashimi) and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. Originally from Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in book doctoring. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ and sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for more giveways!

6 comments:

lynnrush said...

"Go forth to seek and destroy them!"

LOVE that.

So true.

We share many of the same hot words, Camy. The "find" function on word has been a life saver, that's for sure. :-)

Gaze/Gazed is my EVIL word. I'm going to try this Autocrit.com you mention.

Thanks for the post!

Danica Avet said...

When I read the title I was thinking 'sizzling' or something like that. Boy, was I wrong! lol

Hot words...I didn't even realize there was such a thing until I sent my first chapters to be critiqued. Mine would be "that", "just", "so" (So is such a great word!!), "said".

I might have to try that Autocrit program as well!

Mia said...

Great post, Camy! :) Oh, boy, I have a way-too-long list of hot words! I have a bad habit of constantly describing eyes, so eye/eyes, gaze, look, wink, etc., make up the majority of my list.

Alexis Morgan said...

I swear, there's a different phrase that I fall in love with in every book--my last one I realized that something happened to every character that "brought him/her to his/her knees." A punch, a kiss, you get the idea. Sigh.

However, the other "hot" words I try to watch for are "about" and "or." I have a tendency to weaken my writing by saying an hour or two, one or two cups of coffee, about an hour.

Alexis

WriterGirl said...

I need to figure out what my hot words are.....I have a feeling there are quite a few!! :)

Camy Tang said...

Lynn-LOL glad I'm not the only one obsessed with my characters' eyes!

Danica--LOL! I have nothing against sizzle, but thinking about my hot words tends to be a bit like a wet blanket. ;)

Mia--You know, I think it's indicative of what we look at when we talk to people. If we look into people's eyes, I think that as writers we tend to write a lot of eye movements. It's kind of programmed in our brains!

Alexis--it's totally true, I will often have a word or phrase that takes over the manuscript, and it's different for each manuscript! Good point on "about" and "or"! I use those a lot, too.

WriterGirl--don't worry if there are a lot, because every writer has a list a mile long! :)

Camy