Saturday, October 6, 2012

"looking" at you! - a writer challenge

LOOK! No, really, look. That was the challenge issued by my brilliant editor Summer Ross, who tagged me in a "look" writer challenge.

The rules: find out how many times the word "look" appears in your manuscript or work-in-progress. Then, post your favorite three paragraphs with the word "look" in it. Of course that means I had to evaluate each and every time I used the word.

When I saw the rules, I thought: piece of cake. That's not one of my go-to filler words. WRONG. Here's the truth in cold, hard numbers: I used the word "look" 327 times in 90,000 words. At first I thought, that ratio isn't too bad. Then I realized that there are 327 "looks" in 298 pages. That's a problem.

Look had become a filler word for me - people gave each other "looks" and "looked" at things and said "look" instead of owning an action, an expression, or just cutting to the chase (apparently, 327 times.) Needless to say, there's major editing happening over here. And I dutifully looked through every single "look." Here are my three favorite paragraphs with the word "look."

Even now I can feel the drops of blood that splattered my cheek the moment my fist made contact. I catch myself wiping at it, sure I’ll see stains on the back of my hand. But there’s nothing there. A man could be dead because of these hands but they don’t look any different. Shouldn’t they look different? They start to tremble all over again. I shake them at my sides, shake them until they hurt.

“Wait,” a new voice commands smoothly. Everyone goes silent at the sound, which is familiar even to me. The psych patient from the hospital. I wouldn’t forget that voice in a million years. The instant recognition makes the hairs prick on the back of my neck. As I turn to look for confirmation, everyone else in the courtyard drops into a deep bow. The only two left standing are him and me.

“I am to make a crown. For his queen. He wants the horse shoe to be part of the center piece. If you don’t succeed…” He stops and looks away from her. The agony in their eyes cuts me to the quick. She wouldn’t let go of the necklace even in the face of death, and I left it on a bedside table. Two seconds ago, I was certain there was no part of my heart left intact. But there was. And it just shattered like a fist to a mirror. Spera and I are not the same. We are not alike. Not in the least bit.

Now for the last rule: once you've "looked," tag 5 writers in your response, and pass along this little challenge. If you've been tagged and want to participate, post your findings and your paragraphs on your blog/site/FB where ever, and make sure to let the writers you tagged know that they're next!

And here are my tags:

Rachel Harris
Lori Ann Robinson
Katie Snow Pendergrass
Kerri Cuevas
Charity Bradford

"looking" at my three choices, I'm clearly a big fan of action of description in the use of the word "look."


  1. I'm afraid to know now, lol. I'll go look at my ms and see how many "looks" are in there.

  2. Oo, nice snippets! Thanks for thinking of me. I just did a similar tag a week or so ago. The slight difference was I had to share the scene around the first time I used look in my story. You can find it Here. It's from my book that's coming out in Feb. :D

    I did the search and found I used some form of look 252 times in 300 pages. *sigh* it still seems like a lot. I'll have to improve on that next book.

  3. That's a whole lot of looks. I really liked the first paragraph with it, it sounds natural in that one. Thanks for participating Jadie! I hope you had fun.

  4. @Kerri - I was afraid too! I really thought the word wouldn't be a red flag for me. But it made me make my characters own their actions instead of leaving weak spots, so I'm glad I did it.
    @Charity - thanks for responding even though you've already been tagged for this! You're so popular :) I read the excerpt from your book and now I've got March circled in my planner for your debut release. Congratulations! Great cover, by the way :)

  5. @Summer - thank you for tagging me in this writer challenge! it's served to tighten my MS a lot. More of the words I challenged myself on: sudden(ly), glance, blush, sigh. (i will get this to you by friday. i will get this to you by friday. i will get this to you by friday.) :)

  6. Great paragraphs, especially the first. I think you and I have about the same percentage of looks in our WIPs. I'll be posting my entry on Thursday.

  7. @ Ellie - thank you! I just scoped out your blog. *love* and followed :) I will check out your post on Thursday. And I'll look for you on NaNo.


Ramble on, y'all.