Here is a bad habit I have myself. Repeating the same words or descriptions can be so easy during the drafting phase. Our tunnel vision is so clear, and we spill it onto the page, or screen.
I feel so drained yet satisfied when the piece is complete. However, when I go back and read the story, I see the same actions or stand-out images. For example, “Josh stared into the midnight sky.” “Josh slipped through the midnight smoke.” “A soft chuckled bubbled up as Josh’s cat Midnight cuddled up to him.” There may be a theme here, however word diversity can create the same effect. Let’s try again. “Josh stared into the midnight sky before slipping through the shadow of smoke. He chuckled as Onyx pounced atop his shoulder.” A bit better. Similar imagery is presented, but the language is more diverse and has more fluidity.
Word diversity is important with character ticks as well. It can be nice for a character to incline their head while in deep or vapid thought, or pull at their clothes when nervous, but those attributes should be unique to individuals, subtle and described in a few different ways as well. Show through actions and psychology to allow your reader to know your characters personally.
In the cleansing phase I do a simple word search when I’ve realized I may have overused a word or description. I usually get suspicious of myself after three or four occurrences. I then skip through the manuscript to make changes as appropriate. Thesaurus is your friend.
The end result is typically higher overall quality and language for a more rounded manuscript. Give it a try. Here is a feelings chart first shared to me by Cayce Berryman. She is a fellow author who also provides editing services. Visit her website here.