Question 39: Avoiding repetition

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spillingblue asks: The problem I most worry about is being too repetitive about a situation, or consistent about a plot point/character development, so it turns into a blob of overused words and sentences and meanings. Do you possibly have any idea how to stop this, and keep it short and sweet?

I encounter this problem from time to time for two reasons: 1. I'm a pantser and don't plan anything that I write, and 2. The time I have available to write is so sporadic that I sometimes forget what I've already written because it's been too long.

These things can't be helped when we're trying to craft that first draft. So don't worry about it at first. Just keep writing Draft 1. Once you finish, however, it's time to go over everything and pay attention. Start from the beginning. While you're reading, you may notice repetitive content. If certain words get used too much, change them. Find synonyms and alternative wording. Use a thesaurus.

If a plot point get repeated too much, make a note of each instance. Repeating plot points take longer to fix, so it may be prudent to note where they are rather than fixing them as you encounter them. This is because you'll want to see how many times it comes up. Once you have a big picture of your first draft's layout, you can then figure out which things to keep, and which parts to rework. Creating an outline of your first draft can be helpful in this endeavor. This helps you keep track of what plot elements are where. This also works for pantsers like me, because it isn't planning. (My creative brain doesn't like planning stories.) The story is already written, and the outline is just for organizational purposes.

As for keeping things short and sweet, you might want to check out the chapter I have called "Streamline Your Sentences". It'll help you cut unnecessary words and make your work easier to read.

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