Once upon a time, there was a self-publishing podcast from which sprung the Facebook group The Smarter Artist. To create a platform where indie-writers could meet like-minded editors, a bunch of editors within this group of writers created the spin-off group The Smarter Artist Editors. Long story short, a dedicated few started a weekly thread sharing editing tips with the community, and we’re now ready to share these tips with the world.
Today, I’m sharing a tip from Emily Deady. Emily is a freelance editor who loves fantasy and historical fiction, especially if it involves a good romance.
Happy day 2 to all you ‘wrimos! Even if you are not joining in the delightful chaos this year, I highly encourage you to search ‘NaNoWriMo’ on your favorite mode of social media to feel the writing enthusiasm! It’s a contagious month!
As for the editing tip, today we are going to chat about a simple culprit that often pops up in first drafts: a repeated use of the same word in quick succession.
When the brain is in writer mode, it can latch on to a word that it just used, and sneak it into the next sentence. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive about it, but as a reader, the repetitive sounds bounce around in my brain and pull me out of the story.
Check out the examples below. Neither is inherently flawed, but a simple re-work in both cases offers notable improvement.
“That is why I never recognized you from court. You were the son who was too poor to ever come to court.”
This is just lazy writing. I wrote it in haste during a first draft, and it got instantly flagged for a line-edit in my second draft. The rewrite not only eliminated the repeated ‘court’, but it improved the impact of the line as a whole: “That is why I never recognized you from court. We used to laugh about you, the poor chap who couldn’t afford to travel – much less order a decent suit.”
“Warm, full, and tired, she retired to her room to sleep for hours.”
Definitely not the end of the world, but ‘tired’ and ‘retired’ sound like high, staccato notes hitting the roof of my mouth. Re-read the sentence. Can you feel it? A simple fix could be, “Warm, full, and exhausted, she retired to her room to sleep for hours.” #thesaurus
While it can be tricky to locate these repetitive pests in your own writing, it helps to listen for the sounds as you read through your work.
Of course, not all repetition is bad, things like alliteration or melodic prose use it intentionally. Just know when and how you are using your words to communicate with the reader.
Happy writing! Happy editing! Happy weekend!