Ninth Commandment

Thou Shalt Avoid Needless Repetition

Repetition sounds like a writing strategy that might be quite useful. A reader can be reminded after several chapters of a key element from an earlier moment in the story or can be directed to focus on a particular element when the plot or character interactions become fast-paced or chaotic. Repetition can even support comedy in storytelling by having the same element pop up under differing or unexpected circumstances.

But when it is not being used in some purposeful way such as these, repetition should be hunted down and eradicated. Literally, try a ‘search and replace’ function in your word processing software to see how repetitive your diction might be.  Instruct your program to find words like “smile,” “look,” “walk,” “really,” and “very.” If there are several usages of common verbs and adverbs, ask yourself if there is any other word or phrase that could be used instead.

Now, it’s easier for fresh eyes to pick up problems like this, but authors have resorted to the strategy of reading the paragraphs of each chapter, starting at the end and working their way towards the first paragraph. Your mind is less following a story now and more able to notice unintentional repetition.

One should especially be aware of words that are repeated two, three, or four times within a few paragraphs. Readers are distracted by this needless repetition and may even begin to regret having picked up the book.


Bottom Line for FQP Submissions:

If you submit a manuscript that reveals less-than-purposeful repetition, you basically have two options: Resubmit at a later date with the POV clarified, or work with one of FQP’s developmental editors to resolve the repetition issues (typically from $50 – $200.)


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