Friday, November 6, 2015

Don't Be A Repetitious Writer

A friend shared this Snoopy cartoon strip on facebook this morning. Maybe all writers should adopt this lovable guy as a mascot. He never makes it big in the writing world but he also does not give up. He's out there pecking away on his trusty typewriter again and again. We laugh at his antics with editors and the things he writes, I wonder how many times we recognize ourself in some of Snoopy's writing accounts. 

Today, he shows us the humorous side of being repetitious. Seeing Snoopy do it makes us laugh. It's not so funny, however, when it is a problem in our own writing. Repeating the same idea or same words leads to a boring reader. It brings out the irritability of an editor who reads a submission with constant repetition. The story itself would have to be outstanding for an editor to accept with revisions. No doubt, he/she would spell out those revisions quite clearly. 

When I urge repeatedly to let a first draft simmer on the back burner for a few days, or even longer, I have good reason. One is that immediately after writing a new essay or story, you can't see errors. All you see is the main idea of what you've written. Let it sit and when you read it again, the problems will jump out. More than once, I've read my work later and mentally went What? and wondered how in the world I'd been so repetitious or used a plethora of passive verbs or wrote an entire piece with no sensory details. Or maybe mixed tenses. 

The keen eyes of the members of my online writing group often catch things I never noticed. They are reading A. for the first time and B. objectively. Thus, the errors jump out. Many times, the critiquers point out that a sentence can be deleted, or even a whole paragraph. Their comment is usually something like You have already said this; you don't need to repeat it.

So, why do we tend to repeat things, whether words or whole ideas? One reason is that some writers fear the reader isn't going to get it. Thus, they say it again, maybe in a different group of words but the same idea. Scratch that worry off your list. Most readers do get it. Another reason is that we run out of new ideas or new words and so it's easier to repeat than to come up with new stuff. Do I dare say that we become lazy sometimes? Yes, I'll say it because I know I've done it myself. 

Snoopy knew he needed some more editing for his story. Don't let yourself be the Master of Mistress of Repetition. Slash those repeated words or ideas and replace them with new ones. You'll make your work far more publishable if you do. 

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