One of my worst tendencies as a writer is to rely too much on simple and weak vocabulary. Often I’ll address this in later drafts, when the emphasis is on improving the language moreso than the plot. One of the best ways to see your own usage patterns is to use a word cloud service to visualize often-repeated words.
This cloud is from my entry for the Dark Crystal AuthorQuest contest. The main character’s name is very prominent, as are universe-specific nouns. There are also a few weak verbs, like “turned” and “looked,” that are being used too often. “Said,” by the way, is considered transparent, whereas “shouted” isn’t.
This one is from my novelette “In This Universe or the Next.” The story uses a lot of jargon for its far-future society, which is reflected here. However, I still have a tendency to use “turned” too often. It’s now on my “Things to Avoid” list.
This is the cloud for the first chapter of Herald of Change, a novel I wrote in 2007. “Count,” in this instance, is a character’s title. However, the chapter uses the verb “looked” far too often. “Something” is a weak noun, best avoided.
Finally, here’s a cloud for my The Daily WTF post “Authenticated Authentication.” The post is only 750 words, so there’s less variation in word frequency. I’m happy with this cloud, with lots of strong nouns in use.
I highly recommend the use of word clouds to analyze your own writing during the revision process. See what verbal tics lurk in your own writing!