This is such a simple thing, especially in comparison to many other editing skills. Weighing adjectives and adverbs, replacing weak verbs with stronger ones–all this takes real effort and a certain amount of experience.
But this one is easy. Just tell Word to find all instances of look, and I don’t add spaces fore and aft, like I do for other words like nod.
The problem is, look is also easy to use in combination with other words. Forward-looking, good-looking, looking forward to, and overlook are all favorites of mine. And that’s okay, as long as in the next paragraph you don’t have two lovers exchanging a fond look.
A certain amount of it can be mechanical–your hypothetical lovers could exchange glances, for instance. Glance is the easiest replacement, along with gaze, but in turn we need to be careful with these as well. If we have too much going on with our character’s eyes, we may be neglecting other senses. And too much of any good thing can be distracting.
For example, on my last look pass, I ended up rewriting some passages to make them stronger, not simply substituting in a similar word.
What I’d recommend is doing all of the find and replace editing together. Smile, nod, and look are my besetting writerly sins when it comes to overusing words in drafts. So I do these all in a row, skipping through the document until I reach the next highlighted instance. Then do what I call an organic pass. I read my story, trying to respond to it purely as a reader. I make certain the changes I’ve made fit my voice and flow. I end up making numerous changes on this pass as well.
Sometimes, I even change a correction back to look. The write-around can be awkward in the context of the narrative, and the cure was worse than the problem.
And that’s okay. Just by taking a long, critical look (it really is such a useful word) at your word usage, your narrative will inherently be stronger.
So keep up the editing. Let’s all polish our words until they sparkle. 🙂