Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

You know you're addicted to reading when you read the back of shampoo bottles while showering. But, just in case you're not a freak like me, let me tell you that shampoo comes with instructions. For those of us who haven't figured out how to wash our hair, I guess.

(Isn't this the most Donna Reed 50's picture?)

Massage into wet hair, lather, then rinse thoroughly. Repeat.


Yep. Repeat. Just in case you didn't get it right the first time.

And all of this fancy shampoo talk is just a lame way to lead into the writing topic du jour: repetition. I think repetition of certain pet phrases, sounds, and gestures is something that plagues most writers. One of my friends shared that her editor hated "raising an eyebrow" or "quirking an eyebrow" or anything eyebrow so much that he'd rip his own out if he saw it again. Okay, for the sake of honesty, the editor didn't say that (wouldn't it have been witty if he did?). But he did list eyebrow movements as one of his pet peeve repetitions. Since then I've been extra careful not to do the eyebrow thing. Sometimes it sneaks its way in, though.

And now after that picture you'll never forget it, will you?

Try and notice your common repetitions. I use "dripping with sarcasm" way too much. Thank you to the person that pointed it out to me! Some common words that are repeated and often not needed are "that" and "just" and "then." I make sure to do an Search->Find on each of those words on one of my editing passes. Try it and you'll be surprised how many you've stuck in.

And really, Elana over on Mindless Musings had a brilliant post on this subject. Or maybe it's just the brilliant YouTube video she has to go with it. Either way - love it! Go check it out and I dare you not to laugh.


L.T. Elliot said...

I loved Elana's pachabell post. ;)
I use the word "still" way too much. Ugh.
Brilliant post of your own, Jaime! I'll watch those eyebrows.

Jenn Johansson said...

Yeah, those repetitive words will kill you. Great post :) I read shampoo bottles too. LOL! At least I'm not the only one.

ali said...

LOL, no, I'll always have a lovely mental image for eyebrows now. Thanks ;)

My fave repetitions are "eyes flicked" or flicking of some sort. Love the justs and thats.

Thanks for the reminder!

Michelle McLean said...

Oooo, I do this a TON. I currently have a problem with the word "headed" and "though." I'm not sure why. With my last book it was the phrase "a bit."

Oh and I'm just dying now because one of my characters is constantly "cocking his eyebrow" LOL hmmm, maybe I should change a few of those ;-D

Deborah said...

I don't know how many hundreds (hundreds?) of was's I've had to change.