Monday, June 13, 2011



It happens all the time. We tell a story to our friends only to realize (probably as we're just reaching the end) that we've told this story to this same group of people before. It may be a good story, but no one needs to hear it over and over and over again.

I come upon this every time I go through first drafts - whether it's of a novel or a game. I've given the same clue more than once. Sometimes, it's way more than once. What's amusing is oftentimes it's not even that vital a clue - just something that stuck in my head.

But repetition sneaks onto our pages in many guises. I've found I have love affairs with certain words as I'm writing that first draft. This is when the 'search and replace' function gets used. Thank heaven for word-processing functions!

Another mask repetition wears is when you discover your characters tending to react to situations in the same way. There can be a surplus of eyes widening or shoulders shrugging or throat clearing. High nervous laughter can also litter your pages. Be aware. I've found knowing my characters can help avoid this pitfall - if I think about one characters and how he/she would react in character, it's usually unique unto them.

How do you avoid repetition?


  1. It's a bad, I say bad, habit to get into, this repetition thing. I'm so guilty. I repeat, and repeat. Don't know how to stop. So I'll just say again, one more time, that repetition is a a bad, bad thing.

  2. Avoiding repetition means being aware of it. Giving characters specific gestures can be good--until it's more of a tic. It's a matter of balance. And nobody said it was easy. I've only had one editor who was really on top of repeated words, and another one missed that I'd named 3 characters Hank in the same book.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  3. Elspeth - You're so right about repetition! You're so right about repetition! ;-). I know I've been guilty of it. What I do to get rid of it (I haven't yet been completely able to avoid it) is to ask my beta readers to watch for it, and to read my work out loud to myself. It's amazing what you notice when you read your work aloud...

  4. You are so right that we tend to do this in first drafts, that's why edits and rewrites are so important. And asking others to read and look for those pesky repeats. If we try to find them all ourselves, we miss a lot as we get caught up in the content again.

  5. Carol; Although I am guilty, guilty, guilty of repetition in my first drafts, I usually find the offenses when I'm going back through my work.

    Terry; Of course, characters' tics have to be repetitive - or else what's the use of them having one? Thanks for the giggle about the three characters named Hank. That's rich.

    Margot; I can usually find them myself - I get that little voice saying "Wait. This is eerily familiar..."

    Maryann; Another set of eyes are so important, aren't they? I agree with you, it is so very easy to get caught up in the content.

  6. I read and re-read, then set the book aside for a while so I can come back to it with, hopefully, fresh eyes. It helps, too, if I make notes as I read.

  7. That's a tough thing to find in a manuscript! Reading out loud can sometimes help me find repetition. :) But I can't read aloud for too long before I go hoarse!

  8. Helen; I'm a big note-taker. Thank heavens I can usually read my scribbles.

    Elizabeth; Going hoarse can be a hazard, can't it?


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