Writing Exercise: Look, Tools!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Look you, she had the look so I looked at her.”

Oh, the editing pain. Look has so many definitions:

Noun – (1) The act of directing one’s gaze – “give a closer look”. (2) An appearance or quality – “she had the look”

Verb – (1) directing one’s gaze – “I looked at her”. (2) have the appearance or impression – “he looked good”

Exclamation – (1) call attention to what you are saying. “Look, this is too many definitions.”

Serious. Pain.

Today’s writing exercise is to create a tool to reduce the pain.


PART ONE: Devote a notebook page or file to common words and start collecting synonyms for them. Some of the bad boys are: Look/see/saw, felt, start/began/begun/begin, angry/anger, try/tried, said, go/went

I’ll help you start the look one: Stare, eye, glance, peek, see, gaze, contemplate, survey, watch

Google something like “other ways to say ____” and hit the image option. You should see lists created to help high schoolers expand their vocabulary. Take advantage of this.

An example from Pinterest (and originally from teachstarter.com):


PART TWO: Now you have a starting point fix the following paragraph and post your version below:

He looked at her and she smiled back as she handed him a cup. He felt good about the smile, a start to a relationship, and he smiled too. The woman looked at the customer in front of her, starting to take a new order. The sudden shift of her look felt bad.  He began to get angry. The fast food girl had looked so nice. Then he got it, he needed to try harder.

PART THREE: Finally go through your present work in progress (WIP) and search on the words. Write down how many times each appears in your manuscript. Now fix the ones that appear too many times.

How much is too much? If this is the first time you working of fixing issues like this, you will see it quick enough. For example, in 171-page manuscript I worked with the word “look” (or a variation thereof like “looked” and “looking”) appeared 420 times during the first pass. Over twice per page. That would be too much.

Below write your worst offender, how many times it appeared, and how many double-space, normal margins pages are in presently your WIP. If everyone shares, we can all see what words we need to watch for.