Friday, September 23, 2011

Repetition Kills

Repetition can kill an otherwise perfectly good story. In a few cases, this is a technique to draw attention to certain text, but only if you are aware of it. And even then, be careful not to overdo it.

Repetition can consist of the same wording, but it can also be the same subject matter repeated more than once. This is an issue all writers should pay extra attention to during the editing process. For one thing, it’s extremely noticeable. So, send that manuscript in to the publisher with repetition and I guarantee he’ll know you haven’t taken the time to go through it with a fine tooth comb. And, if you don’t care, why should he care enough to put it on the publishing table.

It seems every writer, along with each different story, develops a word, or phrase, she loves to type onto the clean white page. With my latest, Seduced by Darkness, I discovered quite a few, but the main three were darkness, desire, and need. The words plagued the manuscript. These are the special words we narrow in on. But there are obvious ones which stick out like sore thumbs.

And, he, she, felt, watched - these are a few that find their way onto my page no matter the story or the mood I’m in. You should pay close attention as you move through your writing career. Creating a list of these overused words will help you recognize them quicker, but it will also help you to rid yourself of the habit. Unfortunately, you will probably gain a few new ones to replace the old.

This isn’t a major issue, don’t stress over it, but do make extra effort during your own editing and revision sessions. Your editor will thank you for it. And you’ll thank yourself when you get your manuscript back and it isn’t full of red slashes urging you to rid the manuscript of these troublesome words.

On subject matter, if your character is blond, the reader doesn’t need to be reminded of this every other page. If Shawn stabbed Josh, the reader only needs this information once. So, you think the reader may have forgotten? Go back and make the incident unforgettable instead of repeating it.


Terry W. Ervin II said...

looked and nodded are some I watch for.

But you're correct, especially with dialogue, repeated words or phrases can be appropriate.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great advice, Cher. I'm bad for using titles especially is they sing off my tongue. Not sure how that's possible but remember when you were a kid and your mother called you using your full name? You knew you were in trouble.

I too often use this phrase in my current WIP, "Staff Sergeant Gabriel Lacroix" to illustrate my protagonist's frustration and sarcasm.

However, during last night's read-thru, I realized that yes, I feel his frustration, but enough already.

I'm now going back and removing everything but the name Lacroix.

Anonymous said...


Thank you both for commenting. Repetition is effective when used correctly.

On Lacroix, maybe leave a few of the long instances to keep the frustration alive?

Have a great day,

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