Many beginning writers feel they must set up the dialogue by explaining first what the character is going to say, or to emphasize a point by repeating it in dialogue, but it is not needed. Unnecessary repetition weakens sentences and adds extraneous words to your manuscript. Say it once, cut to the chase.
Another example of saying the same thing in different words: Many unskilled workers without training in a particular job are unemployed and do not have any work. (“Unskilled” and “without training” mean the same thing, as do “unemployed” and “do not have work.”)
Better: Many unskilled workers are unemployed.
Be aware of repetitive phrases:
• Circle around
• Continue on
• Final completion
• Frank and honest exchange
• The future to come
• Repeat again
• Return again
• Revert back
• Square in shape
• Red in color
Also be aware of using the same word too many times in a paragraph or on a page. Use your imagination (and the Thesaurus) to come up with alternatives.
When you are ready to rewrite your manuscript, go back through it with a highlighter and mark all these redundant, repetitive words and phrases. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll be able to trim your bloated manuscript and substitute meaningful action, reaction, and emotion to build tension, conflict and character.
What are some of your favorite repetitive words or phrases?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.