Repetition is your enemy – Kill it before it kills your story!

I’ve been harping on this a lot lately, but it seems like there are a lot of writers who forget this more and more. Maybe it’s because the time between editing and publishing is even shorter these days than ever before, and maybe it’s just that we forgive lazy writing more easily. But repetition is not your friend. In fact, view it as your bitterest enemy and kill it. Kill it dead.

I’m guilty of this, truly I am. Even going through my recent draft of Gold Valley has shown me just how guilty of it I am. But it seems as though many writers, especially the one I was talking about in my previous post, don’t know how to find it in their own writing and destroy it.

Repetition is easy enough to find, the same way those pesky adverbs are easy to spot. If you feel like the author (who may or may not be yourself) has said something in as many ways as he or she can possibly think of, then you’re looking at repetition. Sounds like a big “duh”, but it’s honestly not that simple. You may feel that your audience needs to hear it again, or you may not even remember emphasizing it in previous chapters. But seriously, you can only say “they had a rocky past” so many times before the reader feels like you think they might be stupid.

A phrase I must have read fifty times before I put down the previously mentioned book was “I’ve loved you forever, even though you didn’t want to admit you loved me back.” It wasn’t those exact words every time, but it was some variation on that. Seriously, I got it the first time. And honestly, I didn’t even have to hear it the first time. If the author had shown me, rather than told me, I would have believed it. As it was, I read that phrase over and over and still was never once convinced that it was true.

This doesn’t just pertain to sentences, phrases, or ideas. If you find yourself writing the same word more than twice in a paragraph, it sounds and reads as repetitive. She had an office in the corner office building sounds repetitive.

So go forth and edit thy manuscripts, smite all repetition and kill all adverbs!

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Comments
3 Responses to “Repetition is your enemy – Kill it before it kills your story!”
  1. S says:

    very helpful!

  2. oldancestor says:

    It took me multiple pass throughs and drafts of my first manuscript before I noticed how many times I described characters making the same gesture or using a similar phrase in dialog. Then there were all the superfluous words. After about 8 drafts, they started popping out at me, like someone injected dye that detects redundancy.

    I haven’t looked at it for almost two years, and I bet I’d cringe if I read it now.

    We learn by doing, right?

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