Ummmm.....I Heard You the First Time

As you all know, I just finished my line edits a few weeks ago. One thing that immediately jumped out at me was the same word scrawled on page after page.


As in, repetitive.

Now, this is a manuscript I finished the rough draft of in 2007. This thing has been through the ringer. I've edited and revised it a million times.

But I was still being repetitive.

Thank goodness for editors!

What a great reminder for me when I start my next story. I see repetitiveness in books already and sometimes it can be annoying. Repetition is not necessarily using the same words or repeating a sentence. For example, I read a book recently which was a good story with some sweet romance, but I felt like every chapter was reiterating the inner conflicts of the main characters.

The reader doesn't need to be told over and over why the hero and heroine can't be together. I find myself doing this in my own writing. Using the character's internal narrative to remind the reader what the conflicts are. I don't think it's effective. The reader will remember. Use external conflict to heighten the inner conflict, but repeating the inner conflict is not necessarily a hook.

Will I take my own advice? I'm trying!

Do you find yourself repeating the conflicts in your stories? What about telling the reader what you want them to know, rather than using scenes? Any advice for someone like me who feels like the queen of repetition at the moment?


Jessica Bell said…
I really think it's all a matter of balance. Sometimes the reader needs to be reminded of things, especially if conflicts are depicted in subtle ways. I guess it all really depends on HOW things are written. Good luck with your edits! :o)
Jessica Nelson said…
That's a good point, Jessica, and I agree with you. :-) Thanks for popping by!
I am just made revisions on a first draft and I've had it put away for awhile, so reading it over was like the first time and I kept thinking, "Am I writing to idiots?" How many times can I say the same thing over and over?

I realized that because my twist was tricky that I thought I needed to repeat what was going on, a billion times. It bogged down my story, made it more confusing, and annoying.

Slash. Delete. Slash. Delete.

I'm now going to hand it off to critique partners/beta readers and see if I fixed the problem. LOL Funny your post comes at this time. It's nice to know I'm not the only one!
Katie Ganshert said…
I struggle with this too, Jessica! I usually repeat the conflict....explain an internal battle when the reader already knows. Thank goodness, indeed, for editors!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jessica. Oh no, you're NOT alone! I'm sure when my book comes out I'll find all sorts of things I'll slap my forehead over. Heeehee. Best wishes finding readers!

Katie, me too. :-) I'm thankful for editors too. And critters. And basically anyone who reads my book. lol
Jill Kemerer said…
I repeat everything. Words, concepts, conflicts. It's so annoying! And I think it's common--we're not quite sure if we've made our point or not. Like you said, thank goodness for editors, or in my case, critique partners!
Linda Kage said…
I think repetitiveness is one of the hardest things to combat in a story. I can catch some of my own, but I really have to depend on someone else to spot most of them because I've been over the story so many times, it pretty much all seems like one big repeat for me.

Good luck finding the repeats!
Terri Tiffany said…
Ouch--makes me wonder if I have done that with my internal conflict as well with their thoughts. Part of me thought I should so the reader gets it but it could be overkill.
I try to be careful about this in my edits, but I'm so grateful my work will be in the hands of someone who edits for a living. Rest assured they'll catch more.
~ Wendy
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jill!

Thanks, Linda. :-)

Terry, I think reiterating it is okay if it's done carefully. Overkill is a good word. I'm guilty of that, for sure! lol

I'm sure they will, Wendy. :-)
Jennifer Shirk said…
Sometimes I feel I'm hitting the reader over the head with the character's inner conflicts too. That's the one thing I always ask my crit partners to help point out to me.
Erica Vetsch said…
My repetition comes in the form of a favorite word for each manuscript. I am so close to it, I can't see it, but crit partner Georgiana always hones in on what the word is for a particular story.

Last time it was the phrase 'light as thistledown.' :)
Tamika said…
I wish I had a magic writing wand. But alas, we can only take one line at a time:)
Sandra Orchard said…
This is a timely topic for me. I actually have the opposite problem. I'm usually asked to state the romantic conflict more clearly and earlier...which feels like a back story dump to me.

So... I've been noticing the outright reiteration (in thoughts) of why hero can't love again in a few LIHs lately. It drives me a little crazy, but I started wondering if that's what the editors want. So I'm encouraged by your editor's input. For me, as a reader, the fun is in figuring out the subtext, and "getting it" without being told, or before being told.
Jessica Nelson said…
Jennifer, good idea! I think I'll ask my critters to keep an eye out for that too.

Erica, that's hilarious! One of our fellow bloggers caught my hero arching his brow about a million times! lol I'm so glad she caught it!
Jessica Nelson said…
Tamika, what??!?? You mean it doesn't exist? lol Thank you so much for stopping by! It's been a long time. :-)

Sandra, yeah, I noticed it too. The editor I had was pointing out repetitiveness in dialogue and narration though. I think they do want us to state up front the romantic conflict. But we're writers. We can do it in a way that's not boring or repetitive...I think. lol It's hard, that's for sure.
Indie Newbie said…
It's hard not to be repetitive, especially when you have to increase your word count! I'm struggling with inventing new ways to explain my characters' layers. How many times can they ask themselves 'why' and 'how'? HAHA.
Patti said…
I agree that the readers sometimes needs to be reminded, especially when it's been a while since you introduced a character.
Nancy said…
Sorry, no advice. I just hope you get the thing straightened out. Since you notice repetition in what you read, I'm sure you will do much better on your next book.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Tori! Best wishes to you. I'm sure you'll find an awesome way to do it. :-)

Hey Nancy, I hope so! I hope every book is better and better. :-)

Patti, true. Good point!
LOL. You are NOT the queen of rep, you are the queen of blogs. Hello!


I know I've been guilty of that myself. I think everyone is. That's why beta readers/editors come in so handy.

It's also why it takes months to get a book ready for the printing presses.

Great post!
Stacy Henrie said…
It's easier for me to see this stuff in other people's work - harder to see in my own. Thank goodness for crit partners and readers that help catch what I miss! :)
Robyn Campbell said…
I catch myself repeating all the time. But that's the key. When we know we're doing it. That means we're on to something. Actually recognizing the problem.

Critiquers, betas, editors. They keep us in check. :-)
Yes, thank God for editors! Mine told me "clarify, please" about 100 times. Sigh.

I think we can avoid rep if we read as much of our ms at one sitting as is possible. This way we get the feel for the story as a whole, more like a reader would view it.
Joanne said…
I know there are words I always have to do a search for and be sure I haven't depended on them too much. It's amazing though how someone else's eyes always see things we might not.
Jessica Nelson said…
Anita, good point! Oh, and I forgot, I'm already queen of cliches! Hmmm. Maybe I lost that crown? lol I hope so...

Stacy, I know. I'm so thankful for my fellow writers/readers.

Robyn, you're very right. Recognition is a great stage to reach!
Jessica Nelson said…
Jeanette, so true. I have writer friends who read the whole story rather than crit over a length of time. It makes a difference. And LOL on the clarifying! I had a few of those too.

Joanne, isn't it? It's like our brain becomes blind after a while...or something.
Keli Gwyn said…
I don't have a problem with repetition. Repetition isn't a problem for me. The issue of repetition isn't one I deal with. =)

I get hooked on certain words, mannerisms, etc. and have to weed them out during edits. My CPs catch some I miss, and I trust my editors will catch even more. I just hope there aren't too many left when my book reaches readers.
Brandi Boddie said…
I'm guilty of repetition. My characters will ruminate over the same problem and I have to go back and refine the scene with some external conflict to get them out of their heads. In my first draft of a manuscript, I unwittingly used a lot of pronouns. The chapters were littered with "he" and "she". I'm glad my agent, who used to be an editor, pointed this out ahead of time!
Oh my, yes!!!! I hate when I repeat words, phrases, and thoughts--even descriptions at times.

Yeah, Jess, you'll try to follow your own advice, but I find I always deep doing the same old stuff. Like you said, thank goodness for editors!!!
i'll never forget an edit i got that basically said i was repeating something that i hoped the reader had picked up earlier...but "just in case" decided to spell it out. the editor was like, "i'm not stupid!" then I felt stupid for not treating my reader with more respect!

the character therapist
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Keli! I feel the same way too.

Brandi, I love the phrase you just used about getting them out of their head. Nice!

Oh Cheryl, you know I probably keep doing the same things over and over too. That's called craziness you know. lol

Oooh, Jeannie, ouch!! But so true about treating the readers with respect.
Loree Huebner said…
My hubby and son are very good at spotting this -

"You already said that" or "I get it" will be scrawled on my MS.

Then I went the opposite direction. I had them wondering and questioning a few spots - "is this intentional?"

I'm trying to find the happy place.

We just keep trying to get it right.
Sarah Forgrave said…
Great reminder, Jessica! I think this is a tough one to see in our own writing sometimes, y'know? :)
What do you mean I'm saying the same thing again? ;)

I have to LOL on this. I drive my husband nuts, because I generally say the same thing three times in different ways. It's my way of processing.

Just have to watch out for where that carries over onto the written page. My readers aren't contractually obligated to love and cherish. ;)
I've never thought about repetition when it comes to conflict. Thanks for pointing this out.

Sigh. Something else I'll have to watch in my writing. :)
if you're the queen I'm the king, Jessica!!

I think I do it because I see it so often in the published books I read that I think it's necessary. You're right, though, one repeat should be enough to make sure the reader didn't miss it the first time. Oh, man, now I have even more editing to do...
ali cross said…
Sadly, yes. I'm trying to learn too, though!
Karen Lange said…
I think Jessica Bell has a point with the balance thing. I know I try to be careful, but it still happens, and this is where crit partners are a big help.
Mary Curry said…
Funny, Jessica. I was just pointing this out to a student today. She was trying to stretch her paragraph and kept saying the same thing over just putting it in a different order.
I'm guessing I don't notice it as much in my own writing. I'll try to be more aware.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
Jessica Nelson said…
Oh, that's funny, Mary!

I know I'm thankful for my critters, Karen. I think Jessica had a good point too.

Thanks for popping by, Ali! ;-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Loree!!! That is SO cool that your hubs and son read your work. :-)

Sarah, yep, I definitely know. lol

Emily, I love your sense of humor. :-) You always make me smile!

Hey Susan, there are writing bombs everywhere, right? You'll do fine though. :-)

Eileen, I've been seeing it a lot lately too and am having to keep myself from doing the same thing. It's so easy but I really think it weakens the story.
Unknown said…
I repeat stuff by accident a lot, but sometimes I do it on purpose because I want to "make sure the reader gets it." But then my CPs read it and they usually comment and say "you already said this" and I realize the readers WILL get it. No need to repeat. :)
Deb Shucka said…
I think we all have writing quirks that can only be remedied through revision and another person's eyes. This fits nicely with the advice from your previous post. Awareness is a big part of getting better.
It's amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can do for a manuscript. I can't always see my repetitions.

Lauren F. Boyd said…
This is a good post! Thanks for bringing something to our attention as writers that we may not have even realized we were doing. Now we can watch for it and try to avoid it! (I like your blog post title, by the way!)

And thanks for commenting on my blog! It's great to see you!

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