A fellow writer shared a fun website with me: Wordle (www.wordle.com). Input your text and it draws a mind-map or concept-map based on the frequency with which words appear (ignoring the, and, a/an, etc.) At first I thought, "Well that's useless but fun, and I have a cool 'picture' of my narratives.
I cut/pasted in the entire MS of Chupacabra and got a fabulous picture with--no surprise--Jack, my protaganist, as the largest word. The secondary characters Kiki, Eddie, and Milagros were next largest. Chupacabra, Muggle, Flaco, and Carmen weren't far behind followed by a nice smattering of other key words. Much more balanced than the giant "George" with everything else significantly smaller for Marina Melee.
Then I looked closer. I'm so glad I did. 'Just' and 'know' -- two of my favorite filler words -- were much larger than they should have been. I did a quick search throughout the MS and, wherever possible, got rid of those words, greatly reducing their size in my story's Wordle image.
What I thought was merely a fun toy turned out to be a helpful writing tool. Most of us have those crutch words and fillers that don't add anything to a sentence. Especially in dialogue, where I do write very much like I speak, I tend to use "you know" at the beginning and end of sentences, and a lot of "justs." Seeing it writ large--literally--helped me become aware of my problem words and fix them. As you can all see from the image above, I still have some editing to do: 'like' and 'back' are jumping off the page at me now that I've reduced the 'just' and 'know' footprints--so back to the MS.
I'd like to hear if any of you have used Wordle and found it to be helpful. What fun and helpful tools do you use in your writing?