Trimming Repetition to Create a Stronger Story

Trimming Repetition to Create a Stronger Story

A story that repeats itself can appear redundant or poorly edited.

Nobody enjoys reading the same thing repeated over and over, whether in dialogue, description, or foreshadowing.

Even in real life, such things can grate on the nerves.

I hate it when people repeat information or instructions.

It’s like they think I’m too stupid to catch it the first time around and want to drill it into my brain to make sure it stays.

Sometimes I might not catch everything in a conversation if I’m distracted or don’t care.

But if I wanted it repeated, I would ask.

Having it forced upon me is annoying.

The same pertains to stories.

Repeated information is boring, repetitive, and often leaves the reader thinking, “I know this already. Get to the point.”

Unfortunately, things often get repeated even when we’re trying not to, especially in a first draft.

We rarely know the right spot to reveal a plot point or a piece of information.

We write in it one place, only to realize it belongs somewhere else further down the line.

This might occur several times throughout the manuscript before we decide where everything goes.

Leaving us to search for every key detail and eliminating the excess.

Unless you want it in multiple spots for a reason.

This can trim your story down quite a bit, but it’ll improve the clarity of your story.

Allowing the reader to flow from one point to the next as each piece falls into place and pushes the story forward.

Giving it a logical narrative drive.

Once you’ve cut repeated plot points and key reveals, your draft should be much cleaner.

But writers often develop favorite words or phrases they like to use.

Often without realizing it.

Too many in proximity can stand out and make the reader pause.

They might not even realize why they paused. Only that something feels wrong.

Like a sense of deja vu.

We might also repeat our descriptions: colors, smells, movement…

Creating our own swear phrases, local sayings, or unique world-building elements can give our stories flavor.

But too much of anything can be overwhelming.

No matter the word or phrase, we don’t want to bore the reader or jar them out of the story.

The same applies to sentence structure: the same introductory clauses, dialogue tags always in the same location…

A variety of words, phrases, even sentence length, creates a natural reading flow. Giving our stories rhythm and keeping them fresh.

In my last edit, I cut away a third of my manuscript.

I couldn’t believe how many crutch words and phrases I found. Even when I try to avoid them, they always sneak into my writing.

I’m also long-winded and repeat things.

But now that I’ve finished editing, I couldn’t be happier.

Trimming words may sound painful, but we’re only cutting the fat. Creating a leaner, stronger story that reads smoothly from start to finish.

FOR FURTHER READING

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Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.

She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.

She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.

From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.

She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.

When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.

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