Tips · Writing

Repetition

When you’re a writer, there are few times when repetition is allowed, never mind warranted. Sometimes it’s necessary, when they’re writing a 300-500 page book and an event or conversation that happened at the beginning needs to be mentioned at the end, to remind the reader. Sometimes it’s when you use a scene from the end of the book as the prologue, in which you recount the event later in the book, word for word. Then there are times when it’s not a whole scene, event or even a sentence that you’re repeating. I have that last problem.

I have certain words that I’m forever over using, without realising it. More often than not, it’s because of the way I speak and my accent coming through in my writing. Sometimes it’s done without thought and I don’t even notice how often I use certain words or phrases.

I had this comment for my last book, ‘Decadent’, during the beta reading phase. My wonderful beta reader, Tracy, warned me that I used the word ‘boyfriend’ far too often. Now, consider it’s an M/M romance and there are two guys in love with each other, thus making them boyfriends to each other, I felt sure this was just a half dozen entries too often. I did an entire document replace, switching ‘boyfriend’ with the number ‘1’. It made 211 replacements! I was shocked. I had to go through the entire document, searching and locating each entry of ‘boyfriend’, to see if it had to stay, or if it could be replaced by an alternative. I’m pretty sure that I deleted around 150, if not more, of the offending word. Removing any more would have removed the meaning of the sentence they were in. Quite a  lot of them were from Konnor, a third MC who used it in a negative way.

That got me thinking. How many other words were there far too many of? Well, I re-read the book on my Kindle and highlighted any word that I’d read more than three times in the last chapter. Then I wrote the words into a list and this is what I came up with:

 

boyfriend
husband
smile
smiled
laugh
laughed
just
fine
very
pretty
little
sigh
sighed
good
lightly
ridiculous
amazing
sweet
cute
really
gentle
gently
quiet
quietly
best friend
kind of
mostly
guessed
figured
looked
light
sure
mischievously

 

 

 

 

 

I put this list into a spreadsheet and saved it as ‘Repetitive words’, so that I can use it to remind myself that there are just some words that are completely unnecessary in a sentence. I’m sure you’re all looking at my list and thinking ‘she’s used a few of these words far too much in this blog post, too’. I’ll cop to that. It’s a fault of mine that I’m working on. This list is helping me.

To illuminate how badly my manuscript of ‘Decadent’ needed this list, I’m going to expose my shameful list of results. Please bear in mind that this list contains the results of the THIRD time I’d gone through this list, so some of the ‘after editing’ results weren’t updated. –

Word Decadent After Editing
smile 75 47
smiled 59
laughed 53
just 118 47
fine 30
little 101
sighed 41
good 41
really 42
looked 91

 

 

I’m also working on spotting key phrases and making sure that I’m not saying the same thing twice, just in a different way. I know how often that mistake can happen, when you’ve forgotten that you’ve already said something, so you say it again. But, for me, this is just another lesson to learn, as I become more used to editing my stories to a standard that I’m happy to turn over to my editor. The last two times, I’ve cringed when handing over my copy and then let out a sigh of relief when it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m hoping that after a few more books, I won’t have to cringe at all. I’ll hand it over and one day – maybe it will be years from now – my editor will send me an e-mail saying ‘There are no changes needed. I’m sending it off to the printer’. Then I’ll be happy.

Until then, I have a lot of learning to do.

If you have a problem with repetition, you might want to try my list idea and expand on it. Or maybe one of these articles will help. And if you find something that works, please let me know. I’m always up for learning and trying new things –

5 Ways to Deal with Word Repetition

Repetition – How to Use it Effectively

Repetition – Different Types and Meanings

 

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You might also be interested in these:

Quick Tip: Save your Story from Coming to a Bad End

A 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises

5 Tools for Building Conflict in your Novel

Your Novel Blueprint

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