Monday, November 9, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Progress

Sorry I didn't post over the weekend, I was in full fledged NaNoRevisMo mode, which meant not a whole lot of time for much else (well...except the hour I wasted on Twitter on Saturday night, but that wasn't my fault--that site is more addictive than Crack! Well...I've never tried Crack, but everyone talks about it like it's a hard habit to break so...).

Anyway, for those of you wondering how it's's hard to say. I've now revised the first 142 pages of my draft (yay!) and removed 5914 icky words (double yay!). The only problem is, by some weird glitch in the Universe, my draft is UP in word count, by about 200 words. Don't ask me how that happened--I have no idea. But it's really a drag because my word count is WAY too high already, so I'm either going to have to cut A LOT in the pages to come or I'm definitely going to have to go back through those first 142 pages again. Or, maybe--gulp--both. *Sighs* I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

But that's enough boring revision updates. On to what I really want to talk about.

I discovered a really cool revision tool: Word Clouds. (Thus the cheesy title for this post--see the dorky way my brain works?)

If you don't know what they are, you can find out all about them and/or make your own at wordle--though I warn you--it's completely addictive. I had WAY too much fun with them this weekend.

 No, I did NOT scour my files for things I could turn into word clouds.

Okay, actually I did. But, I promise, there was a method to my madness!

One of the writers I follow tweeted that she uses word clouds for her revisions. (See! I learn stuff from Twitter, so it's okay that I obsessively check my tweets, right?) She said she likes to turn her drafts into word clouds because it'll show her if she's using the same words too often and it also helps her to see how the characters are ranking--if any side characters are getting more face time than more important characters, that kind of thing. And let me tell you, she's a Genius!

I made a bunch of word clouds with my draft, and it was amazing! I did one for the whole draft which I learned A LOT from, but I'm not quite ready to share that one yet. (It kinda gives a few of my secrets away--something I'm realizing means they're not as secret as they need to be. See--genius!) But, I did make one for the first chapter which you can see below.
Isn't it pretty?

And, what did I learn?

First of all, I was SO relieved when my main character popped up as the major word--maybe I'm doing something right!

(BTW, that's a fact I've never shared: my main character's name is Sophie. When she originally appeared in the short story I was writing--which then turned into a book, which then turned into a series--proof that I am incapable of being concise--I'd named her Agnes. I know--cringe! I had my reasons, I swear. Anyway, when she took over the story and my brain and my life--yes, my characters are WAY too real to me--the first thing she INSISTED on was a new name. Three baby name books later I finally settled on Sophie. Since then I've had second thoughts--especially when I realized that its the name of my in-law's dog--but the stubborn girl is already sold on Sophie and won't let me change it. So, Sophie it is.)

I was also glad to see the word "Eyes" playing such a prominent role, since they're pretty important in the chapter, and I was glad the word "sighed" was nice and tiny because I've been trying to tone that down. (One of my CP's pointed out that my characters sigh a lot and by golly were they right--it was OUT OF CONTROL.) Hopefully I've remedied that problem. I was also happy to see that there weren't too many adverbs in there, so maybe I have that under control. All in all, I was happy with the word cloud, and have decided to take it as a sign that I'm getting close--maybe! (On that chapter at least)

And now that I've shared it with you, I wonder if any of you can guess what's going on in this chapter based on the word cloud.  I don't think it's very clear--in fact, it even confuses me a little when I look at it--but maybe I'm wrong.  Feel free to take a guess in your comments, I'd love to read them.


  1. Lol! Every time I see Ninjadillo I giggle.

    Please put him in every post :)

  2. Love Ninjadillo of course!

    I am glad to know that I am not alone in the character's taking over brain, sleep, etc. I posted last night before bed and should have known my main character was too hyped to let me sleep. I think maybe she is the one who enjoys the dates... hmmm??

    Anyway, my favorite thing while scanning over your word cloud: Albertosaurus It made me laugh. Don't know why, maybe the lack of sleep, but either way it definitely stands out to me. As for the rest of the jumble; sounds like a young girl for sure with the mention of jeans, eyes, flirting, parents, mom and again my other personal favorite: gum.

    Glad to know 'RevisMo is going well! Have a great Monday, Shannon!

  3. Twitter...I keep hearing how people learn so much from it, but I don't need something else to distract me:)

    I've got to check out wordle. It looks so cool and I love your word cloud.

  4. Ok now I totally want my own word cloud. Here are my thoughts on your chapter 1 just based on the word cloud (I havent looked at what you sent yet. Sophie's mom always wanted her to study dinosaurs in college and they fight back and forth like a swinging pendulum between her studying dinosaurs and being a museum curator when she grows up or joing the local theater company and starring in Sweeney Todd. She knows that her parents are supposed to be right but she sees a secret in their eyes and knows that there is something more and not knowing this makes her angry and throw books across the room. Also, Sophie wears jeans.

  5. That's a great idea since I'm at that stage of my book. Editing and getting rid of over used words. I'll have to check it out.

  6. Kat- Ninjadillo thanks you and says he'd be happy to send you an autograph. :)

    Southern Princess: LOL--yet another thing we have in common. I have one character who popped up out of nowhere and took over the whole series (girl, the stories I--and my husband--could tell about him.) We writers are a funny bunch. I think that's why we bond together.

    Melane- I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. You can gain A LOT from it (including getting tweets from your favorite writers and agents answering your questions.) But you can also lose HUGE chunks of time, so it's up to you if you want to start.

    Frankie: LOL. You really need to make some word clouds. I did each chapter, plus the whole draft, plus different sections (yes, I made WAY too many) but I learned SO much. And I love your concept--a girl who wears jeans. Inspired! Maybe I should re-write it and go with your idea. :)

    Patti- Definitely check it out. I was surprised at how much I learned. Plus, it's kinda fun seeing all your words in pretty colors and shapes. :)

  7. I love ninjadillo! Seriously :)

    I also LOVE wordle! I put way, way, way too many documents in it - I'm talking chapters, drafts, poems, e-mails (I am not joking, so sad I know). Did you know you can personalize the color palette? It's so addicting and ridiculously awesome!

    Here's what I think may be happening in this chapter. Sophie likes a boy and they take a class trip to a dinosaur museum. Sophie confides in her mom, who wants to make sure she's thinking about college. ;-)

  8. Sara- Ninjadillo loves you too (and he's SO smug right now it's not even funny!) And creating word clouds is not sad (well, I hope it's not because I love it! And yes, I have personalized the color palette and have been known to refresh it a WHOLE bunch until I get the words organized in a way I like.)

    Not a bad guess, actually. They do go to a dinosaur museum, and college is on everyone's minds...but the boy is, well, let's just say he's making his first appearance in a very strange and mysterious way. :)

  9. Love love love wordle. Love it like I love chocolate--no, more, because it is calorie-free.

  10. I've never heard of word clouds but it looks like a lot of fun--and very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Which writer blog did you get this idea from?

  12. Q- Yes, that is a good reason to love them. Anything calorie free is excellent in my book. :)

    Karen- No problem. I hope they help you as much as they help me.

    Heather- It was actually a tweet. Lillith SaintCrow (I actually haven't read any of her books yet, but she does these #askawriter twitter sessions that are awesome)

    She tweeted about using wordle for revisions and it was funny because Holly Black tweeted back to her asking what she uses wordle for and when Lilith explained it she thought it was genius--and it is! (You really need to try twitter--it's awesome.) This was a few weeks ago but I made a note of it so I would remember it when I got to the point of revisions.

    Strangely enough though, Kate at also mentioned wordle in her blog today as a revision tool, so it's I guess it's not all that original of an idea. I love it though. You need to try it!

  13. "...but the boy is, well, let's just say he's making his first appearance in a very strange and mysterious way."

    Can you hurry up and get published so I can read more? Talk about a hook, haha.

  14. Sara- You just made my day! Thank you so much for that! :)

  15. Dude - do you know what I JUST discovered? In wordle, when you create your word cloud - if you click on the "language" tab and scroll all the way to the bottom, there's an option to "show wordcounts" and if you click it a box pops up with every single word in your MS and it tells you how many times that word is used? (For instance, I use some version of the word smile over 130 times... ack!)

    I may blog about it - but I had to let you know just in case you didn't - bc I know you're as obsessed with wordle as I am!

  16. Holy amatuer. I use the word "just" 272 times.


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