Hello gentle reader,
last week I tackled the issue of self-editing a novel (here!) and from your comments I gathered that a lot of us have the same problem: repetitions. When we write, we unconsciously repeat the same words or ideas when really, once is enough. Then, when self-editing our work, we are faced with the issue of dealing with those repetitions.
So here is a 4-step guide to help with reducing unconscious repetitions…
Step 1- Identify overused words
Having a fresh look at your novel or a beta-reader read your WIP is a way to identify overused words. However the best way to know which words are the most frequently used in your manuscript is to use a word cloud generator like Wordle. According to its own website, “Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.” So in our case, and if you paste your manuscript into Wordle, you will get a word cloud where the words that occur the most in the manuscript are the largest. The largest words in your cloud should be proper nouns.
Here is the word cloud for THE LAST QUEEN, which I’m editing during this ROW80:
See? All the biggest words are my characters’ names. If your largest words are “eyes” or “says”, you might want to have a second look at your manuscript…
Then you can…
Step 2- Identify repetitions of effects
“Most writers already know to edit out places where they have literally repeated a word or phrase. But the repetition of an effect can be just as problematic. (…) Repetition can rob your writing of its power.” (pp. 175-176).
So you need to check if you have in your manuscript:
- two sentences that give the same information,
- two paragraphs that accomplish the same thing,
- two characters who could be made into one without harming the plot,
- two chapters that cover the same topic or use the same plot device.
If you do, highlight the repetitions you identify. Once you have done this, you can…
Step 3- Eliminate repetitions
Two is too many…
This is the hardest part. Because this is the time to make choices, to decide what to do with your highlighted words/sentences/paragraphs/chapters. And only you can choose whether to delete or change repetitions.
Step 4- Do a final check
To do so, repeat steps 1 and 2: your word cloud should now only have large proper nouns and you shouldn’t have the same ideas/effects repeated over and over.
That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?
Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.