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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

These Shoes Are All The Same

They may be different colors, but other than that, they look the same. No matter how cute I think they are, people would get sick of it if I wore them every day. The last couple of weeks, I focused on some of the bigger issues we should watch for when rewriting and revising our manuscripts. Now, I'd like to spend some time on the smaller, but equally important, things. I've noticed repetition in both my own writing and the writing of my critique partners. This should be avoided. There are a few different types of repetition. First of all, there is the echo effect when the same word is used too close together. You've probably noticed this even in my blog posts. I have a bad habit of repeating words without even knowing it. For example, look at my previous two sentences. I used the word even in both of them. Another type of repetition is using the same word multiple times throughout a manuscript. You will notice that I've used the word notice three times, oops make that four, in this post. Pay special attention to unique words. A unique word used even twice can rub our readers the wrong way. Repetition isn't limited to the overuse of words. It can also refer to the overuse of certain phrases or sentence structures. One of my favorite phrases to abuse is When he didn't respond, I ... I used that phrase, or something similar, at least ten times in the first draft of my current manuscript. Sometimes we are repetitive in our description. I referred to characters' eyes multiple times. I also described the moon more than once. I've been known to use repetition on purpose for added emphasis. It's possible to pull this off, but we must be very careful. Having someone read our work aloud can help us decide if the technique is effective or not. What are some of your favorite repetitive mishaps? Do you have anything else about repetition to add?

43 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Funny you used "notice" in your example.. because my daughter was once writing a blog post and she asked me to read it aloud to her. "Oops," she said. "I used discovered too many times. Change one of them to noticed." Even kindergarteners don't like too much echoing!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

For some odd reason I'm pretty sharp at picking up on repetitions. I like how you added that it's not just words, but phrases and sentence structures. I'm trying to vary sentence length more in my work. It helps.
~ Wendy

storyqueen said...

Yikes! I am a huge word repeated. It's like I get stuck on a word or something. Thank God for the ability to right-click for synonyms!

Shelley

Amy Jo Lavin said...

A couple of weeks ago, I taught my student to avoid certain "bad" words. The word "just" stood out to me because I knew that I used it in my manuscript. I ran a check of my manuscript, and it appeared 174 times! Wow, that was an eyeopener.

Matthew Delman said...

I've seen myself using eyes a lot as a descriptor as well. It's one of those cheater ways of showing emotion, truth be told.

A "bad" practice for me is the present participle -- the "-ing" words.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Oh, I KNOW I am guilty of this! I use "actually" a lot and I also tend to focus on descriptions of eyes.

It's sometimes hard to see reptition in my own writing, but it jumps out at me when I'm reading another author's work. Once again, I can see how critique partners would be a great benefit.

Angie Muresan said...

I am GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!
I use the same word, descriptions, phrases. I am guilty of it all.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I found that I used the imagery of someone wanting to throttle someone else A LOT. I also had many variations of, "If she were honest with herself." It took a lot of edits and beta readers, but I think I nipped most of the repetition. It's a tough one to catch!

Dara said...

This was one of the main things my crit group got me on last week with my chapter section--the repetition. That and the fact that I often go into telling about something that was already visually shown, repeating myself :P

Melanie's Randomness said...

I am very aware of repitition. If I have too many He's & She's in a sentence I try to use the name. I use the words, "Well & So" alot & "because" so I really try to go back and change it. I wish there were more words that mean the exact same thing!! Cute shoe picture too today!

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, my characters are constantly "resisting the urge" to laugh, smile, hit someone, scream at them. I guess my characters are more restrained than I thought. ;)

L. T. Host said...

Repetition is my choice flaw as a writer. I constantly have to go through and weed out re-used words and phrases, and actions that have been done forty-seven times already.

But-- keeping an eye out for it and recognizing it as a flaw has helped me get better at writing the first time around without repeating myself. Repeating myself.

(Had to do it at least once on purpose).

Lady Glamis said...

Ah, repetition. I recently went through my MS again and found that I repeat the same bits of information over and over that I must have felt the reader would not pick up the first time. Annoying! So I've scratched out all of those repetitions and put my trust in the reader. Sometimes this happens simply because of revisions and not catching where I redid something before.

I also repeat words a lot. That's easily fixable with find and replace. :)

Tamika: said...

Excellent point! I've been meaning to play arond with Wordle and see just how bad my word usage is. I linger over words more now that I'm going through the manuscript with my critique partners. I'm so thankful for all those pairs of eyes.

Jody Hedlund said...

I have such a hard time catching my own repetitions!! It's a problem for me. I'm trying hard to stay fresh, but when you write in chunks of time, you often forget what phrases or words you used earlier! I guess that's just another reason why having an objective reader/critiquer is so important.

jenheadjen said...

(Natalie, that's clever! I think I'd like your characters.)

I always find myself smiling in my writings. That's probably my biggest thing for repetition - smiles, exclamation points, lols and "so"... I find "So at the start of almost every sentence! Good thing I'm currently just a blogger, emailer, and talker, and not so much an author! People would get soooo sick of it by line #2! ha! LOL! :)

Jessie Oliveros said...

Great post. I focus a lot on eyes, eyebrows, and lips. I have a few favorite words. "Edge" is one. I use it too much. It's just so...edgy. Anyway, I know what you mean about unique words. Twilight uses the word "diplomatic" twice. It only needs it once.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow-- now I can't wait to do my edits and yes, I use the same words or phrases quite often like I do in real life. That's the challenge, isn't it?

Melissa said...

I have overused the various ways of breathing in my manuscript. The newest member of my crit group pointed it out because she read eight of my chapters back to back. I didn't even realize my mistake until she pointed it out. So that is going to be a big part of my revision process.

Jade said...

I'm too tired to think of specific examples but I know I do this a lot. Sometimes I'll type a sentence and then think, 'Haven't I already written this?' Oops!

Dream Catcher said...

In my classroom I have a "dead word wall" It is decorated with tomb stones and has words and phrases that are "dead" to us in our writing because I noticed them too many times in their essays, poems, ect. It might be a good idea to make a "dead word wall" at your desk (or wherever you write)!

Heckety said...

My children are very quick to pick up on oft repeated words and phrases and turn them into family jokes! As a result we have all leaned to be inventive with our use of language. The kitchen dictionary is very battered as they all like to befuddle each other with imaginative and extra-ordinary words!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I have a habit of using two similiar phrases in a row for emphasis. Sometimes this works, sometimes it's annoying. I think that is just another reason why Beta readers are so important!

As for certain words that pop up too often within a span of a few paragraphs, I love that "find" function on Word. It comes in handy!

Susan Fields said...

I definitely like to use the same phrases over and over - it's so annoying! Sentence structures also, which one of my crit partners pointed out when she read my lastest draft.

SoulSearching said...

Wow! I have noticed this so many times when reading books but was unaware that there was a technical "writing" description of it. Very interesting and insightful!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Repetition is such an easy mistake and sometimes hard to see. Thanks for reminding us. :)

David F. Weisman said...

I've been learning a lot about my problems with type one at critique circle. Since it's chapter based, I don't learn as much about type 2.

I don't even worry about my blog posts - if I started proofreading them to that extent, I'd have to give up work on my novel.

Erica Chapman said...

Oh yes, the dreaded repetition. I do this a lot. *sigh*

There are words I just like, like well "just" and "well" They do slip in my WiP's once in a while... working on slipping them out ;o) In blog posts - wow, I don't even think about that, but I'm sure I've hit my "awesome" quota for my lifetime ;o)

Great post!

Diane said...

Lots lots lots to think about! :O)

Glynis said...

Interesting post. It is so easy to just drift along adding the same word. Horrors when we read back and see how many times we have overused them.

Paul Greci said...

Yes, I overuse certian words. Yes, I repeat them. Yes, I've got some editing to do.

Kristin said...

Great post. Shrugs. My characters shrug a lot. There's always "just" too.

lakeviewer said...

Great tips!

WhisperingWriter said...

I repeated the word "nearly" and the phrase "a few minutes" over and over again in my novel.

Sarah Simas said...

Facial expressions are my favorite item to repeat. I guess I want everyone smiling or quirking an eyebrow.

Funny thing is this affliction for repetitive habits spills over into my real life. For instance, my hubby has put me on a butter and stewed tomatoes moratorium. It seems I can't go grocery shopping without trying to "stock up". LOL Oh well, at least I'm consistent!

Mary Campbell said...

I'm sure I have many repeated words and phrases. I'm scared to find out how many. I haven't let anyone critique my WIP yet so I'm sure I'll get a rude awakening soon.

Stephanie Faris said...

I use 'of course,' 'apparently,' and 'probably' a heck of a lot! And two of those are -ly words, which are evil...

Amber Lynae said...

I like to start sentences with So. I have to constantly remove the word from my blog posts. I'm sure some still slip in. My when I type my thoughts off so is everywhere I turn.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I like to use "And" at the start of a sentence for pacing effect. But I tend to overuse it.

I've been so exhausted from work lately that the writing is suffering.

Julie Jarnagin said...

My go-to repetitive word is "just." I always have to cut it out of my work.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, dude, I repeat everything. I'm awful. Like the reader can't pick up on things. When I did my revisions for my agent, one of her comments was, "The hair thing is cute, but I wish there weren't so so many references to it. Could you cut some of those?"

Ha ha ha ha!

Yeah, okay.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Repeating ourselves : in style, in word choice, in plot twists. That is a problem. I find I get in trouble when I write exhausted. Sadly, as a blood courier, that is all the time. Love your blog.

Come check out mine : WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS : http://rolandyeomans.blogspot.com/2010/03/last-exit-to-eden.html

May your Muse always be unique, Roland

lauraabest said...

I'm usually quite mindful of echoing but I do catch myself doing it from time to time. It's an easy trap to fall into.