Why Do I Keep Repeating Myself by Author K A Servian

We have author K A Servian sharing with us about why we keep repeating ourselves. She has a new bookThe Moral Compass (Shaking the Tree Book 1).





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Why do I keep repeating myself? 

Have you ever noticed that as a writer you tend to have your ‘go to’ words and phrases that you inadvertently repeat over and over? (see, I just did it there. I said repeat and over and over, they mean the same thing and I could easily lose one).

Sorry, I got distracted, back to the subject - My repetition issue seems to revolve around physical reactions to stress and danger. I don’t know how many times my poor characters have churning stomachs, grit their teeth, bite their lips or widen their eyes - far too often.

It’s a bad habit and a very difficult one to break. Even though I review each of my manuscripts several times before sending them to an editor, they still seem to be rife with repetition. I’ve found that the trick is first to be aware of the culprits (keep a list if necessary) and to use the ‘find’ function to search for and delete them. I inevitably find that after a slash and burn session; the writing is better which makes me wonder why I put those words and phrases in in the first place.

Several common forms of repetition sneak into our writing without our even noticing. How many times have you written - She shook her head. “No, I didn’t do it.” You’ll note that the character has used two ways to say no, first she shook her head and then she said the word. Once is enough. She shook her head. “I didn’t do it.”

Then there are those naughty words like just and very that have a habit of sneaking in. Most of the time they add nothing to the writing. All they do is up the word count. It’s a good idea to search and delete them.

Repeating proper names is another issue that crops up all the time. I used to do it a lot until a mentor pointed it out and advised me that it is necessary to use a character’s proper name only once in a paragraph. The rest of the time, pronouns such as he or she or some other way to identify the character will do.

Another one to watch out for is elegant variation (a term created by H W Fowler, author of Modern English Usage). This is when we search the thesaurus for another way to say the same thing without repeating a word. Daniel read the last line of the book then placed the tome on the table and stood up. In this instance, we could easily replace tome with it. Daniel read the last line of the book then placed it on the table and stood up.

There are many other examples of repetition, but, at the risk of repeating myself, I won’t go on. I will wind up by saying that not all repetition is bad. There are instances when it is used as a literary device to emphasise a point or make a joke. 

Nory was a Catholic because her mother was a Catholic, and Nory’s mother was a Catholic because her father was a Catholic, and her father was a Catholic because his mother was a Catholic, or had been.” Nicholson Baker, The Everlasting Story of Nory

In this example, repetition has been used for humour and rhythm to great effect. But be wary of overuse. A device like this will work once or twice in a novel, but more than that and it loses it’s impact.


Okay, I’ve confessed, what are you repetition sins?


The Moral Compass (Shaking the Tree Book 1)

Florence lives like a Princess attending dinner parties and balls away from the gritty reality, filth and poverty of Victorian London.

However, her world comes crashing around her when her father suffers a spectacular fall from grace. She must abandon her life of luxury, leave behind the man she loves and sail to the far side of the world where compromise and suffering beyond anything she can imagine await her. 

When she is offered the opportunity to regain some of what she has lost, she takes it, but soon discovers that not everything is as it seems. The choice she has made has a high price attached and she must live with the heart-breaking consequences of her decision. 

This novel is part one in the 'Shaking the Tree' series.

Buy on:

Amazon Kindle               Amazon Paperback

Amazon Aus                   Amazon UK 

32 comments:

  1. I also tend to repeat things. Especially in dialogue. "I really should go to--" She cut herself off. <-- the em-dash means she cut herself off and so doesn't have to be described again.

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    1. Hi, Misha, that’s a good one to look out for. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. Hi KA - I guess we are thinking we are repeating ourselves, so we write it twice - which of course we do repeat ourselves. I use very a lot, and try to remember to take it out ... thankfully I'm only writing blogposts... so not too serious.

    Cheers and good luck with your repetitions! Cheers to you and Nas - Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary, very - yes that’s a sticky one.

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  3. "That" and "was" are two of my far-too-often repeated words. It does make me laugh when I'm editing and catch the same word within several words of each other--I guess my brain liked it while drafting :)

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    1. Hi, Meradeth, it’s amazing how we can repeat words without noticing.

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  4. I discovered a bad habit of my characters "starting" to do something. And once I found myself having written about a "past history". ~grin~ Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Darla. Past history is a good one. I wonder if anyone has written a list of them.

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  5. Repetition is something I always cut when I edit for clients.

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    1. Hi, Kelly. Thanks for your comment. Good to know I’m not the only one who keeps my editor busy by repeating myself.

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  6. I think we all have our go to words. Some of them are better than others.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  7. Too much repetition is annoying, and it's a hard trap to avoid. It takes several rounds of editing for me to weed out some of my overused phrases. Even a fantastic phrase becomes redundant if it's overused. One book I read described a woman's hair as being the color of a new penny. I loved that! Very original, right? But the author then went on to describe maybe a half dozen other things in the book with the same phrase. It's novelty quickly faded. (Like an OLD penny!)

    I agree with you about not using the proper names too much. After a magazine bought one of my stories, their editors then replaced every single pronoun in it with the proper name. Let's just say I wasn't pleased, but at least they paid me well. :)

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    1. ARRRRGH! Should be "Its novelty quickly faded..."

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    2. Thanks, Susan. I love that you self-edited your own comment. There’s nothing more annoying than looking back at something you’ve written and seeing a typo after it’s published. I always cringe when I do that.

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  8. Ah yes. One of my big bugaboos too. I so abuse the just (and so, truth be told).

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  9. I take a hatchet to weasel words every time I edit. I have a sensitive radar for word overuse and unnecessary dialogue tags, too. Great post!

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  10. Excellent post. I seem to choose one action per book and abuse the crap out of it. I also abuse just and very.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I’m glad it’s not just me.

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  11. Oh yes. These are things I catch for my clients, and I do my best to catch in my own stories.

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  12. Sounds like a great book! I really like the cover too.

    As for repetition- this is something I continue to work on. I have made improvements- but I still have a ways to go. :) Best of luck to Kathy!
    ~Jess

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  13. My bad repeat word is "just". I just can't stop using it. Just when I think I've omitted all these suckers, they just keep popping up. Just kill me now.

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    1. Hi, Tamara, lol, 'just' is a tricky one that keeps cropping up. :)

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  14. I'm in the middle of editing right now, and guess what? Repeated phrases all over the place. Thanks for not letting me be the only writer who does that!

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    1. I find now that I see repetition not only in my own work but in lots of published writing. Once you become tuned into looking for it, it seems to be everywhere.

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  15. I know what you mean about repeating. I rarely catch myself doing it. Thankfully, I have an editor who catches it all the time.

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  16. Hi there, alwys i used to check weblog posts here early in the
    break of day, since i love to learn more and more.

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