Monday, August 17, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Just in case there's anyone else out there who hasn't figured this trick out yet, let's talk "find" in Word. Of course, I've used this tool for years to make sure I've spelled names consistently and to track down those pet words that worm their way into each manuscript (if I had a penny for all the "justs" I've excised, I could just about buy a ticket to Paris!).

I was driving myself crazy with the latest WIP, trying to keep track of my main character's correspondence with her off-in-the-Navy brother, making sure I'd kept that thread pulled taut throughout and hadn't dropped it anywhere (I think my metaphor is falling apart here; that's a topic for another post).
letters to and from home

My head was spinning and no amount of caffeine seemed to help. Then it occurred to me to use the "find" tool to search for the brother's name. (Winston's trying to take credit for this breakthrough but it was all my idea). Yes, the process was a bit tedious but within 20 minutes or so, I had graphed out the frequency of letters to and fro and was shocked to realize I had three major gaps.

So today was spent darning those holes.

Let me know if this helps you and if you have other, equally helpful, uses for such word processing tools.


  1. Wow--I never thought of using "find" for that! Good tip, Kirby!

  2. You can also use the find function in spreadsheets, if you happen to be one of those people doing spreadsheet plotting. Very useful!

  3. i applied find/change to my graphic novel last night to take out all the names designating who is speaking, i.e. NIK: Yep, it's me! In this case, NIK: would be removed leaving only yep it's me! similarly, i removed all stage directions which i wrote in italics, but requested a find/change on all italics.

    i got rid of everything but dialogue so i could have a word count of dialogue only. the trick is — you leave the change part blank, so it changes something, i.e. NIK: to nothing, thereby eliminating it.