Friday, April 3, 2015

Avoiding Redundancy in your Writing

New topic for today:Redundancy in writing. This is one mistake I see a lot in self-published books and one that needs addressed. I am hoping that touching on these topics will help people who plan to self-publish to look at their manuscripts in a new light. 

We as writers tend to write like we talk. I don't know about you, but I tend to have to tell the 'entire' story verbally instead of in clips. I do the same when I write. We all are guilty of it, but we need to learn to recognize it and 'fix' it before we launch our books.

There are several types of redundancy, not only saying the same thing twice. Although, that is one, there is also using the same verb to close together and using names too much within a scene. I will give you some examples.

1. The yellow lab ran up to Linda and jumped up on her, soiling her new coat. The mud and paw prints left dirt spots on her pink coat. Linda shooed the lab away and ran in the house for a towel to clean her coat. 

As you can see, these sentences can be cut and still say the same thing. 

The yellow lab jumped on Linda, leaving muddy paw prints on her new pink coat. She shooed the dog away and ran to the house for a towel to clean off the dirt and leaves. 

Yes, this is obvious, but I think you see there is no need to say the same thing twice. We already know it's Linda, and the paw prints would be muddy, by just saying the word 'mud'. Also, using lab twice and the word coat three times is redundant too.

Another use of redundancy is repeating the same point. 

Example: John loved Kathy more than words could say. He had lived his life looking for the one woman who he could spend the rest of his days with. The one he could tell his deepest secrets too, the one who would understand him and love him for who he is. 

Now, after all these years, he finally found the woman of his dreams. She is everything to him. Finally, his soul mate, the one who will love him as much as he loved her. Someone who will know his heart and be there with him forever. He knew she would accept him and he would be free to be himself.

Okay, that's all I could think of in short notice. 

As you can see we know John found the woman of his dreams. I think that you get that she will love him and understand him, I don't think you need it beaten over your head. You only need one of these paragraphs. They both say the same thing. 

The next one drives me crazy. Using the same words too close together. 

Example: Edward climbed onto his horse, Midnight, and led the horse into the forest. His horse reared up from the arrow that passed by Edward's nose and lodged into the tree next to them.

Again, I think you can see the flaws in this sentence. First, horse was said three times. By giving a name to the horse, you can avoid using 'horse' for one, and think of other words to replace horse, such as steed. Second, that paragraph needs rewritten. 

And last but not least, when there is more than one person in a scene and every other sentence has one of their names. I know that you want to make sure that the reader knows who is in the scene, but in this case instead of describing, use dialog. 

Example: Jake, Kerry, and Marilyn ran to their car to get out of the rain. Jake and Kerry jumped in the front seats and Marilyn in the back. Marilyn wanted Jake to turn up the heat, but Jake said he would get too hot and Kerry turned up the music to drown out the argument.

Okay, a lot of names. You can do this in one of two ways, one would be with dialog, the other rewrite the paragraph. I prefer dialog.

Jake, Kerry and Marilyn ran to their car to get out of the rain. The guys jumped in the front seats. 

"Why do I get stuck in the back?" she asked. "Turn up the heat, it's cold in here."

Jake shook his head. "'ll get to hot."

"But I'm freezing. At least turn it on for a few minutes."

"I'm tired of hearing you two argue. It's time to crank on some tunes. I'd rather listen to music than you guys fighting."

Did you know who was talking? Since there was only one female, I could use 'she' and since Marilyn was the one cold, I didn't have to use her name as a tag. Also, you knew it was Jake that was arguing with her so I didn't need a tag for Kerry.

There are times though, that you need to make sure you have tags so that people know who is talking. 

I hope these little examples helped to explain the different ways redundancy effects your writing. In the series I recently finished reading, all of these examples of redundancy were throughout the books. My suggestion would be to hire a professional editor or proofreader. A good critique partner is a welcome addition also. You want to strive for tight, clean writing and flow.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please leave me a comment and add to my lesson of the day. Are you good at catching redundancies in your writing? What are the creative writing skills you need to work on?

Leave me a comment and any questions you might have. I love you hear from you. Have a nice holiday weekend!

Love, Lisa


  1. No comments! What?

    I'll comment then. Oh, no. I used the word comment again. Oops!

    Just havin' fun. :)

    I still think you need tags when there are more than two people in a scene. Not a huge amount, but if your dialog gets lengthy there will be some readers who will get lost if the tags aren't there.

    Love your examples. I think I recognize one from last Thursday night (neigh).

    So, that's my two cents. My comment (hehe).

    See you Thursday,

    1. Thanks for your comment Robin, glad you liked my articulated examples LOL! I really had to work to come up with those! Yes, the horse one came to mind and I went with it

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Jagoda! Not that I like preaching, just trying to get self-pub authors to really look at their manuscripts before launching them. Too many people have decided not to buy self-pub's because of all the mistakes and pretty much awful writing.

  3. This is why I like writing blog posts. The regular exercise keeps me on my toes to watch out for redundancy in my writing and to attempt to keep the writing fresh and interesting.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    1. That's a good plan. You learn as you it!

  4. Hi Lisa. Good advice. I tend to get redundant, and the redundancy continues until I get so redundant, that redundancy becomes a part of my redundant style of wriring. Whew!LOL
    All seriouness aside, This post will keep me from attempting to describe, a particular scene, repeatedly. Are you an editor in disguise? Mild writer during the day, but mighty writer in secrecy? Hmm! Your secret is out! Great post. Thank you, or have I said that already! Blessings.