1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Repetitive?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Jul 20, 2012.

    How do you keep yourself from being to repetitive?

    For example, in about forty thousand words, I have used the word "gaze" nearly thirty times.

    In a 90k-100k novel, what should the limit be in terms of repeating words? Should I limit the number of times I use a certain word/phrase five times in a 90k novel? Besides the words "I", "She", "He" "and", of course. I don't want to have to use a thesaurus, but I might have to!
     
  2. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Look at these two numbers:

    30

    40,000

    Which one is bigger? Is 30 significant? Hardly...

    But, what's more important is whether or not using the word "gaze" was necessary in the places it was used. Was it? Was it the word that best fit the sentence? If so, what's the problem? If you perceive a problem with a word, rewrite the sentence to use another word, don't just grab a thesaurus. That's lazy and often causes you to end up with a bunch of sentences that sound pompous or are too weak to contain the significant meaning you want them to.

    When in doubt - Rewrite. Always.
     
  3. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Thank you! Also, I use the word "sun" about forty-eight times. I guess I can stop mentioning it, eh?

    Yeah, I don't want to use big words, but I do realize that some authors, like Stephenie Meyer, have been beaten up over using the same words and being repetitive, something I want to avoid.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally, I would say not to worry about it in your first draft. I also wouldn't worry about using or not using "big" words. Use the words that best convey what you are trying to say -- whether they are words you tend to like, big words, small words, or the dreaded adverbs. For your first draft concentrate on getting the story out onto the paper. When you revise and edit, you can take out or change words that are repeated too much, especially in close proximity, and probably take out many adverbs. You'll probably change speech attributions, realize you made some tense changes, discover some things are not stated as clearly or explained as well as you like, etc. That's what you fix in revision.

    That said, "gaze," as you point out, is not a word like "said" or "he," or even "look." It is a relatively unusual word -- I don't believe I have it at all in the 300,000+ words I've written in my stories. So, you are right to wonder about it. Not having seen an excerpt of what you've written I have no way of determining whether it is the best choice for what you are saying. If you're doing some editing as you go, try reading out loud what you have. Does "gaze" sound like the right word? If people are doing a significant amount of gazing, it might come across as over the top. But again, this all depends on the context. Maybe it works with what you have. I really can't say.

    I've found that I seem to be very enamored of the words "really" and "actually," which I hadn't realized prior to writing my stories. I have a lot of them to cut out. But I don't worry too much about it when I'm initially writing. They can come out later.
     
  5. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I agree about not worrying too much in your first draft. You need perspective and it can be difficult to read your own work and make decisions while you're writing it.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nooo! Don't use a thesaurus. If you're using a thesaurus to avoid repetition, I'd say that you almost always instead need a rewrite, rather than a different word to say the same thing.

    Are you willing to give us some examples of these "gaze" or "sun" uses, so that we can suggest some rewrites? Or if you don't want to draw from your current work, could you make some up?
     
  7. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Sure. I will go through my work and post some examples asap.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But even the way you use words and your favourite words surely build up your writer's voice - it'd be nonsensical to cut all words that repeat themselves just for the sake of "not repeating". There's no harm and nothing wrong with having a few favourite words.

    Of course don't repeat the same word over and over on the same page - the proximity of the repetition is important.

    And if it is repeated in close proximity then there should be a purpose for it - for rhythm and pace, or emphasis.

    But if you use the word "gaze" on p.5 and you use it again on p.25 - I hardly think that's a problem. Think about it, you wouldn't be able to write, quick frankly, if no words were ever allowed to be repeated more than a handful of times throughout the entire MS.

    I think people worry about this way too much. Just write the darn thing and when there're repetitions that actually need eliminating, you'll see them jump out at you on the rewrite! I'd be less worried about repetitive words than I would be about repetitive phrases. Often the flaw is not in the word you chose but rather in whether that action or description was necessary in the first place!
     
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  9. ck1221
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    ck1221 Member

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    In my opinion, certain words jump out at me if they are over used. I remember reading a Dean Koontz(cant remember which one) but "sodium vapor lights" were used repeatedly throughout and I've never forgot it. So everyday used words dont bother me, but uncommon words stick out.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I would have told the OP if the word were, say, "shoes". But I suppose I feel that "gaze" is a word that has limited function and a little bit of stylistic showiness - it's certainly not a difficult vocabulary word, but it's not a word that people often use in conversation - so using it that many times strikes me as a possible problem. And I also wonder what makes the sun that interesting that many times, too.
     
  11. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    I agree with ChickenFreak. If that particular word is used a lot in the book, it would get repetitive. There are other words that you could use that would convey the same meaning. Also, I'm not sure why everyone is so against using a thesaurus, it's a great tool for words like this that you want to change. I'm not suggesting just peppering your text with big and fancy words you pull from the thesaurus, but now and then, it's a go-to for me when I feel like I need a different word for something like this.

    When I'm worried about over-using a word, then that usually means that I am.

    Also, to the OP, I would suggest having a trusted friend read your book when you're done. If something is very repetitive, they'll let you know.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    30 times in 40,000 words doesn't seem like much, until you realize that at 300 words per page, you're seeing "gaze" 30 times in 130 pages -- or roughly once every four pages. That would get grating, because it is an unusual word, it sticks out more for that anyway, and at that frequency, that's just an awful lot of gazin' goin' on.
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If it's bugging you , you might want to change a *few* of the gazes but not all or even a lot of them. But I wouldn't switch them up with something
    that doesn't fit. Ogle might be under the gaze section in the thesaurus but another gaze might fit your sentense better than a misplaced ogle.

    Every writer , even the brilliant ones have their favorite
    words and phrases. I'm a fan of Nabokov's and he's forever talking about the downy arms or limbs of his heroines.

    Thump is right too, if the gazes are bunched up a reader might notice.

    I recall reading some hoot-worthy gothic romance in which the writer over used the word gaily -
    gaily colored , feeling gaily, a gay smile. Considering it was published
    in the late 60's, I'm surprised this slipped though the publishers radar.
     
  14. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    I agree fully with Steph4136, The thesaurus is a useful tool as long as one uses it intelligently. I would not use it in a first draft, but as you go into editing mode and start reading your text, over usage of words will start to hit you over the head. Some times the thesaurus just reminds you of a word that was on the tip of your tongue and is even more appropriate. I would suppress the inclination for extreme locution...:p
     

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