Monday, August 24, 2015

Oops!...I used it again

You ever really pay attention to casual conversations and take notice of the words repeatedly cluttering the ether, including what falls out of your own mouth? Like most people, I am guilty of overusing the word "like" more times than I can count...and that's only within one sentence.

Writing is no different. So...that...just...then...walk...look...was...just a few of the words that continually show up in first drafts. That's where revising comes in handy. Most of these words can be deleted on the spot. Sometimes it fits and should be left alone. Sometimes tweaking is necessary: rephrasing, rearranging, or plain old cutting. But be careful when turning to a thesaurus for help. Replacing "look" with "gaze" over and over just creates a new monster. Plus, the mood you're trying to convey can change the instant you replace "walk" with "strut" or "stomp" or "slink".

Repetition isn't limited to a single word. Phrases and actions and ways we show emotion tend to pop up over and over. It's one thing when a character has a unique trait or a certain way of expressing herself, but if every single time my main character shows her fear through a "racing pulse" or "rapid heartbeat," readers' eyes start to roll.

When revision fails to pick up all the redundancy, that's where critique groups and beta readers swoop in and save the day. It took one of my beta readers to point out my overuse of "beating hearts". I dumped the "pounding chest" and unfortunately picked up a new bad habit, the "twisted tummy". Thankfully, not within the same manuscript.

No matter how many other eyes review your work, overused words, cliches and actions will slip through. Putting a draft aside for a good chunk of time is essential. Then you can take a fresh look and catch anything that drowns your story in repetition.

So, just know you're, like, not alone. Look over your work, get feedback, then set it aside for refreshed eyes. That's the key to ending redundancy.



  1. i over use word and tend to run to the thesaurus to get creative, I feel that when i do this my story will sound more interesting and it will show that I have a great vocab but I have learnt that repetition is cool. I enjoyed your postx

    1. Thanks!
      I feel you FEY Kegs. I constantly turn to the thesaurus. Sometimes legitimately because I know I don't have the right word and for the life of me can't come up with it on my own, but other times to kill the repetition and force another word in its place.


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