Friday, February 4, 2011

Writer's Tip -- Repetition and redundency

Repeating oneself is something that all writers can fall prey to. Repetition can be done with words or scenes. Some writers love lush scenes and others write tight fiction. One can be accused of padding and the other of not giving the reader enough detail. This could be a matter of style or is it?

Think about the last description you wrote of a person or place. Did you pile on the adjectives or did you write The big house on the hill and leave it there. Seeking the right word doesn't just apply to verbs. I've been seeing in books recently this sort of thing Her small hands. His big hands. Doesn't really give me a picture of either hands. Another writer might write a paragraph about his or her hands. The reader may skp over all those words.

Then there's repeated words. I know my critique group is always looking out for this. Sometimes in the heat of writing we plunge ahead. When revising it's always good to look over your manuscript and see if you've used the same word over and over. I once checked a manuscript on mine and found I'd used headed more times than I could count. The search feature is really a great way to discover if you've done this. Another thing I've noticed is new writers tend to use the character's names over and over again, not only in dialogue but rather than substituting he or she the name appears. The reverse often happens as well.

Then there are repeated scenes. Some characters seem to spend all their time eating and drinking. But if nothing really happens in the scene there's no reason for that scene.

Then there are the paragraph openers. I recently judged a contest where one of the writers started five paragraphs in a row with ing words. Not to mention the many ing words in the paragraph. While they were grammatically correct I began to laugh and the point of the story was lost.

Information is another area where repetition can hurt. Sometimes it seems as if the writer is trying to shove the facts in the reader's face. Now a good thing to do if the writer wants the reader to continue reading.

So once you've finished your manuscript take time to look it over for repeated words, redundant scenes, opening of sentence patterns, information repeated too often, and unnecessary definers.


Liz said...

You know what so weird about repeating words - that with each manuscript - the word changes. My latest one I use the word 'just' a lot!

Then there's this one name that keeps popping up - Jake! So I left the name of the secondary character in Playing For Keeps and changed my scifi short story from Jake to Alaric - which is more scifi'y anyway and it my romantic short short I went from Jake to Ethan.

I don't even know anyone named Jake...

Taryn Kincaid said...

Although I was in a critique FOREVAH! (You might be familiar with it) I really learned a lot going through the editing process.
Angela James, the Carina Press exec editor, offers an on-line course on self-editing, "Before You Hit Send," and it's incredibly worthwhile. I highly recommend it to anyone has the opportunity to take it.

Shoshanna Evers said...

My editor at Ellora's Cave calls repeated words "echoes" and highlights them in yellow for me so I can figure out how to to change them.

Taryn, a couple of my friends just took that class and said the same thing! I'm definitely going to take it next time.

Great post!