When the perfect word seems like the right one again and again.
Skilled writers reach for the perfect word choice/ selection. I learned this when I took a poetry class back in 2004. I would agonize over every word. Then I would get frustrated that we would be working in iambic pentameter and I wasn’t allowed to use that one word I wanted. Of course the aim of the course was to teach the rigours of poetry. But finding the right word always seemed the most important thing to me.
At my most recent writing class we were asked to make specific points as we workshopped each person’s extract. Even in a 2000 word sample, class members seemed particularly hot on noticing repetition of language.
Case in point, my most recent submission contained the phrases:
“placed her hand”/”ran her hand down the bark”/ “clutched her hand to her mouth”/
And then, “put out her hands to stop her fall.”
In my head she does all these things. But it takes the pernickety edit of an outside pair of eyes to notice that you have done it. And that is brilliant because if the reader starts to notice the repetition, chances are they are going to be taken out of the world you are writing in.
Here are some ways you can find out if you’re repeating yourself too:
Give It Fresh Eyes
If you don’t want to get someone to read through yet, just taking a break of a few weeks will help to re-read and watch out for word repeats. I also noticed on a recent re-read that my characters had dinner too much in a few short chapters. I was probably hungry when I was writing.
They also still drink way too much tea. I haven’t fixed that part yet, I am British after all!
I created one from an early and it showed up the top words in my document. I think these words gave an interesting insight for me.
Which also gives a good idea if you are on theme. I think my words make it sound cosy, right now. I might need to find some more sinister words to amp up the tension.
I generally use this with find and replace because I keep changing the names of my characters. Does anyone else meet someone after they have created a character with that name? Too much synchronicity for my liking.
This would be a good technique if you suspect you’ve used a word too much. You can search for how often it is in your work in progress and change/alter as you see fit.
How do you prove your not an AI producing your work, the perfect word choice? The perfect sentence? Or do you need to replicate speech with accuracy? I know I repeat myself in life all the time