Using ‘Wordle’ to Trim Your Writing

I have a tendency to overwrite scenes and chapters. When I get done with my 80,000 words, and find out I’m supposed to be under 45,000, I have to slice and delete like I’m carving up last Thanksgiving’s turkey (Note: I’m not comparing my words to a turkey).

At some point in the editing process, I turn to one of the online sources, where you can paste in your text and it will return a scorecard with frequencies of your words. It might look like: gave/9; usually/6; that/12; marmalade/1; etc. Some paid sites will give you additional information as to how many to cut. I usually go back to my Word document and search for the words to see if their numbers can be reduced or deleted permanently. Quite laborious.

This year, I stumbled across Wordle, an online source to create word clouds. Basically the larger the word appears, the more frequently it is used. Here is the result for one of my chapters.Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 4.25.12 PM

This visual representation allows me to see the worst offenders. As you can tell, I have overused a character’s name, Jonson, in this chapter.  If you do a search in Word, Jonson will light up on every page. I can make the needed changes and resubmit to Wordle to see if the new picture is more balanced.

There are a few other things you can do with Wordle like share your creations with friends by posting them in the gallery, or using Advanced Wordle to specify sizes of each word in you cloud. Go take a look at Wordle. It’s fun to use and I quickly found my word counts getting down to a more acceptable level, much like this post: Under 300 words!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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