When you’re writing a first draft, it’s very easy to repeat yourself. Our brains sometimes fixate on a word or phrase, which then burrows into our writing. Tautologies (different words used to provide the same information) also like to creep in. I’ll demonstrate this with the following short passage.
The man crawled out from the trees of the forest. He’d been crawling amongst the trees for hours, but now, he was free of them. The man stood up and glanced back at the trees. Now standing, he lit a match and threw it back towards the trees. The match hit one tree, and soon other trees were ablaze and on fire.
‘That’ll do,’ said the man. His pursuers would struggle to get through the trees now.
There are plenty of issues here. Tree/trees appeared seven times within 77 words, and we don’t need both parts of ablaze and on fire. Also, we could get rid of The man stood up or Now standing without losing any information.
If you read through your draft and this post resonates, don’t panic! It’s perfectly natural for this to happen. It might take a bit of creativity to solve, but it’s possible. Here’s the same passage after some rewriting.
The man crawled from the forest and stood, glad to be upright after hours on his hands and knees. He lit a match and threw it back towards the trees. Flames shot up the bark of one, and soon others were ablaze.
‘That’ll do,’ he said. His pursuers would struggle to get through, now.
Better, right? Admittedly, the passage could use some more work. (For instance, why was the man crawling through the forest? Why didn’t his pursuers catch up if he was moving slowly like that?) However, the repetition has been squished, and the scene is stronger for it.
Can you find an example of repetition in your writing? Or have you spotted one in a published work? I’d love to hear about it! Get in touch via my contact page, or leave a comment below.