ROW80 Check-In #6 – Self-editing and dealing with repetitions

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.

8 thoughts on “ROW80 Check-In #6 – Self-editing and dealing with repetitions

  1. alberta says:

    Hi there – in the process of editing myself – I use various bits of software to help me catch the repeitions as well as writing down for next time those words I overuse:)Then I run it through a speech thingy and catch a few more that way – after many many sweeps it gets sent to friend from forever/editor she of the grammer and puctuation police to cast her stern gaze over it – she will pick up some more – they are endless!!!! all the best for coming week

  2. Juliana Haygert says:

    Hey! Soon I’m gonna be editing my novella and I always use wordle to see which words I use the most.
    Usually they are: eyes, know, just, back. LOL

  3. When I published my last book, I realized I used “that” A LOT. Thanks for the reminder to check for overused words and repetitiveness…sometimes we get so caught up on finishing our WIPs, we forget!

  4. Gene Lempp says:

    Wordle sounds useful, I’ll have to check it out – can’t wait to see “that” appear, which for some reason is one of those words I adore when I’m fast drafting but generally don’t need. Glad you continue to have a handle on your editing process. Have a great week, EM 🙂

  5. Love using Wordle but the find feature in Word works too. I actually started a list of my problem words and work through it, one word at a time as a separate edit pass. Still having another set of eyes to help catch the buggers is best.

    It looks like you have a great handle on your process. Wishing you all the best for the upcoming week.

  6. S. J. Maylee says:

    I heard about Wordle recently, can’t remember where, and forgot all about it. Thank you so much for reminding me!!

  7. Emily says:

    Thanks for some great tips! I hadn’t even thought of using Wordle for this sort of purpose.

  8. Terrific post. The word I had to edit most in my most recent novel was ‘ancient’. Boy…I had a real thing for that word. Sheesh! I had to laugh, just a little.

    Self-editing can be tough, and I always need beta feedback to help me along. But it’s satisfying as well. If I left that part of the writing process to someone else, I wouldn’t learn nearly as much as I do by tackling the job myself. It’s shown me a great deal about my thought process while I’m writing, where my strengths and weaknesses are. Best of luck!

    Have a great week! See you Wednesday at check-in:}

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