My Bad. My Bad. My Bad. Part II.
(I wish I looked like this lovely, young school teacher!) Anyhoo –
A few years ago, I didn’t have a clue what it meant when one of my critique partners submitted “My Bad” in her pages. Now I hear it everywhere, and suspect it is slipping out of the too-cool-for-school status right along with cool beans and groovy, baby. But don’t let me get sidetracked with that. I’ve got a goal in mind with today’s blog, so let me start.
There’s an old line (probably goes back to the days of Tennessee Earnie Ford) where the funny guys asks the straight man if he’d ever met his twin cousins – Pete and Re-Pete. Which is my clever segue to talk about:
Repetition in fiction.
Let me “re-Pete” that – repetition in fiction. Or, as I like to call it, word ruts. Word ruts can become annoying to the reader, and no one wants to tick off the reader, right?
I have recently been going through edits for a novel of mine that The Wild Rose Press will publish sometime later this year. (No date yet, but the title is One for the Road, and the beautiful cover is featured on my home page.) I’ve had to read the story at least five times in the process, which can get painful. My editor, Aly, and I worked hard to clean up my tendency toward overwriting, repetition of words, and assorted other problems. Grammar turns out to be the least of the problems as the editor works her magic and returns the book to the author for review. We made three passes through the book, plus two passes through, first, the mock galley, and then the galley. At each pass we found something that needed to change, this after thinking I’d used my all-seeing writer’s eyes to catch any mistakes. I’m so dang human it irks the heck out of me. Anyway, around pass three my editor said, “This time we’re getting rid of all the extra ‘thats’ in the book.” We are working on Tracking Changes so I scrolled through the manuscript to see what she was talking about, and much to my horror, there were at least fifty unnecessary “that’s” on 300 pages! As I read, I found several more.
Tip to the wise: Do word searches for words such as: That, just, even. Most of the time they’re unnecessary and can become annoying, so delete them.
The thing is, we all get into word ruts, and that’s why we have critique partners to help point out our current “word of the day.” I teased my CP when in one of her wonderful love scenes she’d used the word “settled” half a dozen times, and she teased me right back with my overuse of “jolted” in general. We all have these word ruts and we all need to clean up our acts as much as possible.
Recently I’ve been reading books for the RITA contest. For those who may not know what that it, it is a well-respected book competition for the Romance Writers of America. One of the books I liked very much had a love scene with three “beneaths” in two short paragraphs, and another “beneath” a couple of short paragraphs later. This threw me out of the story after the second beneath so close to the first. By the fourth beneath, the love scene had lost some of its sex appeal. I still loved the book. I use it as an example of how even edited books slip by with word repetition.
And speaking of ruts, I adore a certain author – have loved every single one of her best selling books – but recently the word “rut” got overused in one of them. Rut, as in how mammals go into heat. Whenever the heroine felt turned on toward the hero, she used a word form of rut. Rutting. Rutted. You get the picture. This was cute at first, and fit the character, but after the third, fourth and I’m not sure if there was a fifth time or not, all I know is after the multiple use of it, it was no longer cute, and annoyed me. Again, I still loved the book, but I’m just saying…
Knowing we have these word ruts is the first step. Figure out which words you tend to overuse in your writing. Stay on top of it and weed those babies out. Remember, a good thesaurus is our best friend when it comes to fiction.
Recommendation: Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D. A Writers Digest Book.
For the readers out there: Have you ever quit reading a book because of word repetition? And for the writers: Do you know what your word ruts are? I look forward to your comments. (This blog will be up all week)
This is your reward for reading today’s blog! He’s the hero for my work in progress.