Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z Challenge: R is for Repetition

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

R is for Repetition

Repetition is another major problem for newbie authors. I know it was for me. When I went back and wrote one of the first manuscripts I wrote, I couldn't believe how many times I said the exact. Same. Thing. Sometimes in different ways. Sometimes using the same words. As in, verbatim. Yeah, newbie writer syndrome. This is something that content editors are great for. 

As a general rule, repetition is a bad thing. However, it can be a good thing IF it's done intentionally.

When Repetition is Bad:

1) When you explain something in one chapter, forget you did, and explain it again later. 
2) When you say the exact same thing twice, only paragraphs apart, but in two different ways so even you don't realize it repeats. 
3) When it's in the writing, rather than in the story, and it's something the reader shouldn't notice. (i.e. the above examples)

When Repetition is Good:

1) Themes and motifs can cause some repetition. However, it should be subtle, and not exactly the same over and over again. If it's too similar, it goes from being a symbolic theme or motif to slamming the reader over the head with it. 

2) If you foreshadow, and then fulfill your own prophecies, there's bound to be some repetition, too. But again, it should be subtle enough that the reader is only just barely conscious of it, if at all.

3) When it's part of the plot and you want the reader to be aware of it. (Example: something like a causality look--or for you non-Trekkies, Groundhog's Day--where the point is to repeat everything over and over.)

General Rules for Repetition in your Writing: 

1) If it's on purpose, great. Just be very careful and as subtle as possible while still getting your point across.

2) If it's not on purpose, edit, edit, edit!!!

Do you use repetition in your writing and how so?


  1. I never repeat myself. Never, ever do I repeat myself.

  2. I'm thankful for my editor keeping me in line.

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Co-host
    R is for Reincarnation

    1. Yup. Editors who catch this kind of thing are amazing!

  3. I've noticed I've done this on occasion. Usually when I'm writing the story, stop for whatever reason, then come back to do more writing. Don't generally catch this till I do editing. As for repeating on purpose. I do that when I'm foreshadowing. In one episode in the series I'm writing, I repeated a few times (in different chapters) about a book that went missing. It's a plot point that is actually utilized several episodes later.

    1. Yeah I'm the same way. I definitely don't catch it the first time through. My critique group often does, and when I edit then I sometimes do, but definitely not when I'm just writing. :D

  4. Good points. I probably wouldn't notice it if I read it, but I'd get a strange sense of Deja Vu.

    1. LOL. Good way to put it. Deja Vu can be good I suppose if it's subtle repetition of themes or motifs, but not plot points. :D

  5. I'm a newbie writer and I have repeated explanations of things more than once in the same dialogue. In an effort to make it understandable, but in result making it more confusing. LOTS of editing later and a long paragraph becomes about two sentences ;)

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