Sunday, March 14, 2010

8 Using Wordclouds for Revision: The Secret Trick to Expose Your Writing Sins

Want to check if your manuscript suffers from word overuse? Create a quick and easy word-cloud. The more often a word shows up, the more prominently you'll see it in the cloud. You'll be amazed at what you find when you look at your words from a new perspective....

We all make mistakes in early drafts--and I'm a firm believer in letting the creative juices flow without self-editing as I go. (I'll let you know how that works out if I ever actually manage to accomplish it.) But since I wanted to try this out, I took the opening 10,000 words of the first draft of The Dream Weaver, the YA Paranormal I am currently working on, and ran a quick analysis.

It was easy to spot the words I had overused, and the words weren't even much of a surprise. (See my post on using a Pre-Submission Checklist.) Still, a quick search and replace made the manuscript instantly stronger. Not only that, but as a bonus the process let me catch all my similes and look at them out of context to see if they really worked. And, the places where I used some of these words were clearly missed opportunities that let me put in much more specific language and details. I ran another check and had a much better result.

Bear in mind, this is a twenty-minute quick and dirty revision on 10,000 words. I obviously have a lot of work, and many, many drafts left to do even once I finish this manuscript.

To give you an idea of what a published manuscript might look like, here's the cloud for the first 10,000 words of Cassandra Clare's YA Paranormal, City of Bones.

This may not be the ultimate revision tool for writers, but it's a fun one. For those of us with the ADD-like symptoms of writer's revisionoia, it's a great place to get a lot of payback for very little effort.

Couldn't resist adding one more. Here's a word cloud of Twilight, which looks much more like mine. I wonder if that's the difference between first person and third person POV. Hmmh. Might be worth doing more of these to check. I wonder if there's a pattern?


More info and many thanks:
Thanks to the folks at for describing how we writers can apply this tool:

About the Author

Martina Boone is the author of Compulsion and Persuasion, out now in the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. Illusion, the final book, will be out in October of 2016. Martina is also the founder of, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She's on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.


  1. Great idea! A lot of us overuse certain words.

  2. Catching that's so hard, right? Especially when on their own the sentences and paragraphs look okay.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. That's great for visual people who need to see how much they've overused the usual suspects. All of us who've done the research know to search our mss for these words, but how many actually do it?


  4. Very cool! I totally need to try this!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Hope you'll keep participating....

  6. Good idea. My editor busts my chops on all of my repeats...literally.

  7. Great idea!
    Thanks for the link =)

  8. Brilliant! I will do it the next time I edit!


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