Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Repeat Words

This week's "problem" is the bane of almost every writer. For some reason, our brains get stuck on certain words, and we use them over and over and over in a matter of a few paragraphs or pages. Is it a fixable problem? Sort of. Maybe. More so in the editing process than writing usually. (Did you notice my fragments??? I'm going for conversational narrative and emphasis. :))

One way to correct repetition is to make a list of your most frequently overused words and synonyms or phrases to replace them.

Nodding and head shaking are two of the most common repeats. Have your character incline his head or give a curt nod once in a while instead of simply nodding. She can say "no" or scrunch up her face instead of shaking her head.

BTW, nodding always means "yes" and shaking your head always means "no" in this context. "Shaking her head no" and "nodding yes" are redundant.

Does your character have a tendency to stalk wherever he goes? It's a fairly distinctive word, so overuse tends to stand out. Give him long, lumbering strides or a cane that makes a hollow tap on the sidewalk as he walks. Changing the sentence can sometimes eliminate the overused word and add some characterization.

Another way to find those annoying repeats is to reread after a break. They're harder to spot when newly written, much like missing words. You know what the page is supposed to say so you automatically fill in that forgotten "the," "her," or "a." Autocorrect isn't just for cell phones...

My favorite way to find repeat words is to send my story off to one of my critique partners. They're great at catching every pageful of "but"s and "nod"s. :)

And that list? Mine usually changes from one WIP to the next... I guess that's why there's something called editing.

Next up--Crutch Words (Repeat Words' cousin).

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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