How I Fix Repetition

Sometimes when I’m writing, I notice that I’m saying the same thing over and over. Or I realize that I write about things from one direction. It ends up being repetitive, and not fun to read. Then I feel like a failure and a crappy writer that no one will ever like or want to read or publish. That’s a bad point to get to. It’s bad for my brain and my endurance. So I’ve come up with a simple method to help.

Here’s the trick:

On paper I write the same question/issue/moment 10 different ways.

Consider a character’s physical appearance, facial expression, internal dialogue, emotions, automatic knee jerk reaction, how they appear to others, what the feeling in the room is, where they wish they were. Ten is a lot, but when you write them out it’s worth it. I work on varying sentence structures and verb usage. If I sound repetitive in my 10, I definitely sound repetitive in what I’m writing (one of) my 10 to go in.

It’s that simple. Taking a step back from the haze that surrounds my brain as I write allows me to check myself.

For example, in one part of my book my character gets asked a question where her back is in a corner. It’s bad, exactly what she didn’t want to hear, in the middle of a meeting. I have a soft spot for using physical descriptions because I like subtle nuances and their implications. By writing out 10 responses to the question, it takes my mind out of the repetitive rut it gets stuck in.

“It won’t work. We have to find another way, or else we can’t do it.”

Here are my 10 ways to rewrite the next moment:

  1. She frowned.
  2. The tension in the room doubled as they awaited her response.
  3. Silently, she wondered if they were insane.
  4. Her hands clenched into fists, and she began shaking her head.
  5. Instead of replying, she glared at anyone who’d meet her stare.
  6. Her silence was stifling. They did not want the answer she had, but she could not think of another.
  7. Whoever landed them in this stupidity would pay, she vowed.
  8. When she didn’t reply, everyone grew nervous.
  9. She wanted to be anywhere but where she stood.
  10. The wrinkles between her eyebrows deepened when the implication of his words hit her.

All of those sentences can happen at the same time. They all portray the same moment in slightly different ways. By reading any of them, it’s clear my main character is upset or surprised or angry. One of them would be enough, or two or more together. Compare what you’ve written right before or right after, and choose a different way to word the next moment.

Realizing you’ve started to sound repetitive as you write isn’t a cause for paralysis! (Although that’s usually my first response, along with negativity towards my writing ability.) It’s merely a wake up call. Take a step back and work on viewing what you’re writing in a different way.

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