Pull out a thread in the story and evaluate it by itself. Your thread might relate to a character or a recurring subject in your book. Example: you have a secondary character named Jerome who is supposed to go through a transformation during the novel.
Put on your “find” function in Word and pick out every mention or scene relating to Jerome. Cut and paste them in the order they appear in the book, then print. Eh, voila! You’ve got the entire Jerome story, in order, in one place.
Take note of what pages each scene appears on. Does Jerome disappear for fifty pages, causing readers to forget about him for a time? Maybe you need to insert another scene, or should relocate some existing scenes.
Does Jerome progress as a character? Is the progression believable and satisfying? Are there gaps or inconsistencies? It’s a lot easier to answer these questions when the Jerome scenes are all together in one place.
In addition to characters, you can do this with an action subplot, a theme, a story element, or anything else in your novel that you need to keep track of.
Use a word cloud to cull out repetition.
Ever heard of www.wordle.com? Just cut and paste the body of your manuscript into their window and they’ll create a “word cloud” from it. The cloud contains all the most commonly used words in your manuscript in varying sizes, depending on how many times the word appears.
Here’s an example of what a word cloud looks like.
At least , those are the words that loomed large in the word cloud for my latest manuscript, Undercover Hamster. I was surprised to learn that my characters looked around at any opportunity, for any reason, and often for no reason. It was like a tic I had inflicted on my characters, human and rodent alike. I deleted a lot of those pesky items and wracked my brain for replacements.
So, if you don’t want the word just to appear seventy-five times in your book, once again use your “find” function to go through your manuscript deciding which justs shall live and which shall be replaced with other choices. You’d be amazed how often replacing the word isn’t even called for—you can just delete it!
That kind of pruning and shaping can really give life to a manuscript.
These ideas have worked well for me. Give them a try!